Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email

United States

United States
(Click to enlarge)
United States
(Mapping Specialists, Ltd.)
or United States of America (Abbr. U.S. or US or U.S.A. or USA)

A country of central and northwest North America with coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It includes the noncontiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii and various island territories in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. The area now occupied by the contiguous 48 states was originally inhabited by numerous Native American peoples and was colonized beginning in the 16th century by Spain, France, the Netherlands, and England. Great Britain eventually controlled most of the Atlantic coast and, after the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763), the Northwest Territory and Canada. The original Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776 and formed a government under the Articles of Confederation in 1781, adopting (1787) a new constitution that went into effect after 1789. The nation soon began to expand westward. Growing tensions over the issue of Black slavery divided the country along geographic lines, sparking the secession of the South and the Civil War (1861-1865). The remainder of the 19th century was marked by increased westward expansion, industrialization, and the influx of millions of immigrants. The United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack (1941) on Pearl Harbor and emerged after the war as a world power. Washington, D.C., is the capital and New York the largest city. Population: 302,000,000.

The instrumental version of the national anthem of the United States.
The instrumental version of the national anthem of the United States.
Country, North America. It comprises 48 conterminous states occupying the mid-continent, Alaska at the northwestern extreme of North America, and the island state of Hawaii in the mid-Pacific Ocean. Area, including inland water area and the U.S. share of the Great Lakes: 3,678,190 sq mi (9,526,468 sq km). Population: (2011 est.) 313,387,000. Capital: Washington, D.C. The population includes people of European and Middle Eastern ancestry, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians (Native Americans), and Alaska Natives. Languages: English (predominant), Spanish. Religions: Christianity (Protestant, Roman Catholic, other Christians, Eastern Orthodox); also Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. Currency: U.S. dollar. The country encompasses mountains, plains, lowlands, and deserts. Mountain ranges include the Appalachians, Ozarks, Rockies, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada. The lowest point is Death Valley, Calif. The highest point is Alaska's Mount McKinley; within the conterminous states it is Mount Whitney, Calif. Chief rivers are the Mississippi system, the Colorado, the Columbia, and the Rio Grande. The Great Lakes, the Great Salt Lake, Iliamna Lake, and Lake Okeechobee are the largest lakes. The U.S. is among the world's leading producers of several minerals, including copper, silver, zinc, gold, coal, petroleum, and natural gas; it is the chief exporter of food. Its manufactures include iron and steel, chemicals, electronic equipment, motor vehicles, computers, and textiles. Other important industries are tourism, dairying, livestock raising, fishing, and lumbering. The U.S. is a federal republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president.

The territory was originally inhabited for several thousand years by numerous American Indian peoples who had probably migrated from Asia. European exploration and settlement from the 16th century began displacement of the Indians. The first permanent European settlement, by the Spanish, was at Saint Augustine, Fla., in 1565. The English settled Jamestown, Va. (1607); Plymouth, Mass. (1620); Maryland (1634); and Pennsylvania (1681). The English took New York, New Jersey, and Delaware from the Dutch in 1664, a year after English noblemen had begun to colonize the Carolinas. The British defeat of the French in 1763 ( French and Indian War) assured Britain political control over its 13 colonies. Political unrest caused by British colonial policy culminated in the American Revolution (177583) and the Declaration of Independence (1776). The U.S. was first organized under the Articles of Confederation (1781), then finally under the Constitution (1787) as a federal republic. Boundaries extended west to the Mississippi River, excluding Spanish Florida. Land acquired from France by the Louisiana Purchase (1803) nearly doubled the country's territory. The U.S. fought the War of 1812 against the British and acquired Florida from Spain in 1819. In 1830 it legalized the removal of American Indians to lands west of the Mississippi River. Settlement expanded into the Far West in the mid-19th century, especially after the discovery of gold in California in 1848 ( gold rush). Victory in the Mexican War (184648) brought the territory of seven more future states (including California and Texas) into U.S. hands. The northwestern boundary was established by treaty with Britain in 1846. The U.S. acquired southern Arizona by the Gadsden Purchase (1853). It suffered disunity during the conflict between the slavery-based plantation economy in the South and the industrial and agricultural economy in the North, culminating in the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery under the 13th Amendment. After Reconstruction (186577) the U.S. experienced rapid growth, urbanization, industrial development, and heightened European immigration. In 1887 it authorized allotment of American Indian reservation land to individual tribesmen, resulting in widespread loss of land to whites. Victory in the Spanish-American War brought the U.S. the overseas territories of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. By the end of the 19th century, it had further developed foreign trade and acquired other outlying territories, including Alaska, Midway Island, the Hawaiian Islands, Wake Island, American Samoa, and the Panama Canal Zone.

The U.S. participated in World War I in 191718. It granted suffrage to women in 1920 and citizenship to American Indians in 1924. The stock market crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression, which New Deal legislation combated by increasing the federal government's role in the economy. The U.S. entered World War II after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941). The explosion by the U.S. of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and another on Nagasaki (Aug. 9, 1945), Japan, brought about Japan's surrender. Thereafter the U.S. was the military and economic leader of the Western world. In the first decade after the war, it aided the reconstruction of Europe and Japan and became embroiled in a rivalry with the Soviet Union known as the Cold War. It participated in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. In 1952 it granted autonomous commonwealth status to Puerto Rico. Racial segregation in schools was declared unconstitutional in 1954. Alaska and Hawaii were made states in 1959. In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and authorized U.S. entry into the Vietnam War. The mid- to late 1960s were marked by widespread civil disorder, including race riots and antiwar demonstrations. The U.S. accomplished the first manned lunar landing in 1969. All U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in 1973. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. assumed the status of sole world superpower. The U.S. led a coalition of forces against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War (199091). Administration of the Panama Canal was turned over to Panama in 1999. After the September 11 attacks on the U.S. in 2001 destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, the U.S. attacked Afghanistan's Taliban government for harbouring and refusing to extradite the mastermind of the terrorism, Osama bin Laden. In 2003 the U.S. attacked Iraq, with British support, and overthrew the government of addm ussein ( Iraq War); the U.S. then found itself engaged in protracted wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008 the U.S. economy was rocked by a financial crisis brought about largely by the collapse of the housing market. As the crisis rippled worldwide, recession and a slow recovery followed in the U.S.

For more information on United States, visit

Gale Encyclopedia of US History:

Food and Cuisines


If there is a recurring theme in the history of Americans and their food it is abundance. From the earliest days of the new republic, foreign visitors and immigrants remarked on how well endowed Americans were with regard to food. This was reflected in their stature, which is closely linked to diet. During the American Revolution the average American soldier was much taller than his British foe. Even the poorly fed African slaves in the United States seem to have eaten better than most of their counterparts in Spanish, Portuguese, and French America.

Yet the triumph over Britain on the battlefield was not mirrored by independence from British-style cuisine. The British immigrants, like most arrivals from abroad, had tried to import the foods of the homeland to their new abodes in North America. For the most part the environment cooperated, allowing them to reproduce many of the grains, meats, and vegetables that had formed the core of their diets back home. Indeed, at first they had even disdained the Native Americans' maize, which they called Indian corn after the word for staple food in Britain. It was only after maize and the potato, which was native to South America, gained approval back in Britain that they became important parts of the British immigrants' diet as well. For the most part their foods, seasonings, and methods of preparation remained similar to those of the old country throughout the colonial period. Only in the South, where the climate was warmer and African slaves played a major role in food preparation, did significant variations arise, and these were mainly in the form of the seasonings that slaves brought with them from Africa and the West Indies.

The main gustatory problem for most Americans in the first years of the Republic was seasonality. About 90 percent of them lived in rural areas, and during the winter and spring, when the earth produced little, they and poorer city dwellers fell back on monotonous diets based on root vegetables, beans, corn or rye breads, and preserved meats. However, a transportation revolution was already beginning as roads and canals pushed into the hinterland. Increasingly, farms that had been largely self-sufficient could sell products for cash, which farmers used to purchase goods and foods they had previously produced themselves. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 created a cheap water route from the Midwest to the East Coast. Midwestern wheat then poured into the rest of the country (as well as into foreign markets), bringing markedly lower prices for flour. White bread, which only the better-off had been able to afford on a regular basis, now became commonplace. The nation's cities and towns also enjoyed ample supplies of corn-fattened pork, salted and packed in barrels, that were shipped from growing midwestern centers such as Cincinnati, which proudly called itself Porkopolis.

At the same time, cooking over open fires in fireplaces, on spits, or in iron pots was being replaced by cooking on iron stoves. These enabled cooks to have much more control over the amount of heat applied to foods and contributed to the development of more precise and complex methods of cooking. Recipe books that took advantage of these innovations came onto the market, often as part of housekeeping manuals that helped codify middle-class standards of cooking and serving food for insecure women whose husbands' rising incomes were thrusting them into the new middle class.

Class Distinctions

The recipe books were also a sign that, although the transportation and market revolutions did provide many people with previously unaffordable foods, there were still important class differences in cooking and eating. It was mainly the rising middle and upper classes who could afford houses with iron stoves, as well as many of the foods the transportation revolution and new overseas sources were making available. The story was quite different for the poorer classes. Many of them were impoverished immigrants residing in crowded cities or on poor farms who could afford neither housing with stoves nor a variety of foods to cook on them. For much of the year their diets were still based mainly on salted meats, cabbage, potatoes, other root vegetables, and beans. Although adequate in quantity, evidence that the average stature of white Americans declined from about 1800 to 1850 would indicate that their diets lacked much in terms of quality and variety. Most African American slaves, whose diets were based on vitamin-and protein-deficient corn meal, were worse off, even though defenders of slavery claimed that their immunity from the severe food shortages that still plagued parts of rural Europe meant that their lives were better than those of free European peasants.

At the other end of the scale, those in the upper class were beginning to adopt the French style of cooking that was becoming the fashion among the upper classes throughout the Western world. At first, most of the American elite had been reluctant to join in, for French haute cuisine's aristocratic connotations seemed at odds with the values of the egalitarian new Republic. Moreover, like the British, Americans prized plainly prepared meats and were suspicious that French sauces camouflaged either inferior meats or repulsive ingredients, such as the legendary frogs' legs. However, from the 1820s on, increasing numbers of well-off Americans followed in Thomas Jefferson's footsteps and, like him, returned from visits to France enamored with French cuisine. Delmonico's French restaurant, which opened in New York City in 1832, helped further popularize it among that city's elite. By the 1840s and 1850s, the United States ranked high on the list of countries to which French chefs brought their skills. French-style menus were the norm in the grand celebratory public dinners that were popular at that time. Prospectors who struck it rich in the western mining frontiers celebrated by feasting on French food, often at the fine French restaurants that sprang up in mining towns such as Denver, Colorado.

In the decades following the Civil War, new cohorts of nouveaux riches either joined or displaced the older elites as arbiters of style and taste. They built huge mansions in whose vast kitchens French chefs supervised brigades of workers turning out elaborate French haute cuisine for large dinner parties and other food-consuming entertainments. They also flocked to expensive restaurants, such as the still-flourishing Delmonico's and new luxury hotels for nine-or ten-course French dinners where champagne and other fine French wines flowed endlessly.

Normally, in societies of abundance food tastes tend to filter down the class ladder. However, in this case the upper middle class was quite unable to emulate the gustatory feats of those above them. The problem was not so much the expense of the ingredients involved as the unavailability of servants able to carry it off. Because they could afford neither the quantity nor the quality of servants involved in this kind of cooking, the middle classes were forced back on the simpler British American culinary heritage. They now extolled the cooking of New England, home of the Pilgrims and other revered founders of the nation. Cookbooks and cooking schools offered advice on how to cook this straightforward cuisine, which commonly revolved around a main course of meat, poultry, or fish with two boiled or baked vegetables, covered with some kind of white sauce. Visual qualities, particularly ones that bespoke daintiness, often took precedence over taste, especially since strong tastes and seasonings were thought to stimulate a degenerate craving for alcohol.

Immigrants and Cuisine

This kind of cuisine not only marked the middle class off from the class above; it also differentiated it from those below, particularly the immigrants who were flooding into the country in ever-greater numbers. By the 1880s most of these newcomers were headed for the cities rather the farms, and it was there in urban America, with its proliferating department stores, dance halls, saloons, and other entertainments that a new kind of culture—materialistic, hedonistic, and heterogeneous—seemed to be threatening the moral values and gender roles of the older, simpler America. As middle-class Protestants in particular sought ways to protect their traditional value system from this double threat of immigrant and urban cultures, they turned the dining rooms of their substantial new homes into deeply symbolic bastions. There, the entire family would gather, with the father sitting at what was significantly called the head of the table. He would lead in saying grace, carve the meats, and perform other acts that would symbolize the durability of the patriarchal family hierarchy. The religious solemnity of the occasions would be emphasized by filling the dining rooms with furniture of a Gothic, church-like style.

By the end of the century, the nation seemed to be taking an even worse turn as the character of immigrants changed markedly. They now came mainly from southern and eastern, rather than northern and central Europe. Many were short, dark people who dressed differently and had domestic habits that seemed completely at odds with British American ones. They were packed into smelly, overcrowded housing and cooked highly seasoned mé-langes of foods that most middle-class Americans regarded as unpalatable stimulants to drunkenness.

Many native-born Americans clamored for cutting off immigration, but others—fearing this would dry up the supply of unskilled labor—supported the Americanization of the immigrants. By 1910, many social work agencies were actively engaged in trying to teach immigrant women how to cook the American way. Home economics courses for girls in slum public schools were redirected from training cooks and servants for wealthier families to training young immigrant girls how to cook in the approved fashion for their own families.

The American way, of course, meant the British American way, as perfected by such successful cooking schoolteachers as Fanny Farmer, head of the Boston Cooking School. Her emphasis on the exact measurement of ingredients helped give this kind of cooking the kind of scientific and technological aura that impressed early-twentieth-century Americans, who were already struck by the improvements that science and technology were bringing to their lives.


Many of these improvements could be seen on dinner tables. In the 1870s and 1880s, public health authorities concentrated on preventing epidemic disease by cleaning up public places and exposing them to fresh air. In the 1890s the discovery of bacteria changed perceptions of the causes of illness but continued to spur concerns over cleanliness, especially in the food supply. One result was the passage in 1906 of the federal Pure Food and Drug Act, which sought to protect consumers against contaminated foods. Another was to spur the rise of large food-producing companies whose widely advertised brand names instilled consumer confidence in the cleanliness of their products. Neatly packaged Uneeda crackers rapidly replaced the traditional cracker barrel, which was pawed over by countless bacteria-laden hands. Canning companies, which had existed on a relatively small scale since before the Civil War, used efficient new canning techniques to begin turning out large quantities of foods sanitized through the application of high heat. The Heinz Company built an international empire by showcasing its spotless facilities in Pittsburgh, where teams of white-clad young ladies, looking much like nurses, stuffed pickles and other condiments into see-through bottles for bacteria-killing heating. In urban centers, sparkling lunchrooms with white tile walls and counters replaced dingy wooden ones serving the growing clientele of sanitation-conscious office and store workers.

Abundance, Anxiety, and Amalgamation

One of the most important breakthroughs affecting how people ate came on the heels of the post–Civil War expansion of the railroad network. In the West, vast tracts of land were opened to the production of cattle, whose flesh had always been highly regarded by British American and European diners. Live steers could now be transported to such centers as Chicago and Kansas City to be fattened on midwestern corn before being slaughtered. In the 1870s and 1880s, the introduction of refrigerated railway cars allowed the carcasses of steer to be shipped to the growing cities of the East, where fresh beef soon became affordable to large numbers of people. Chop houses and steak houses proliferated and Americans took pride in the size and quality of their beefsteaks. The railroads also spurred the growth of market gardening and dairy farming in East Coast states such as New York and New Jersey, where agriculture had previously suffered in the face of competition from the Midwest. Trains brought tons of fresh peaches from Georgia, carloads of fresh oysters from Maryland, and piles of Central American bananas from New Orleans to the industrial North. Soon, entrepreneurs were planting oranges for the national market in remote Southern California, beginning a process that would ultimately see the center of gravity of the country's fruit and vegetable production shift dramatically toward the Southwest.

The resulting plethora of affordable foods evoked a variety of responses. Immigrant workers were generally delighted by it, citing the regularity with which they ate beef (and drank coffee) as proof of the wisdom of their move to America. In 1906 the German sociologist Werner Sombart observed that the hopes for socialist revolution in America had been "wrecked on the reefs of roast beef and apple pie." The middle classes also welcomed the new food choices, but new anxieties began to manifest themselves. In the 1890s the discovery that foods were composed of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and that their energy could be measured in calories added to their worries over the healthfulness of their diets. Nutritional scientists and home economists now warned that people should calibrate the intake of these substances according to the actual needs of the body. Eating more than was necessary was said to be wasteful, while eating less than necessary was dangerous to one's health. This nutritional awareness became widespread during World War I, when the government used it to explain its food conservation program, which revolved around substituting vegetable proteins for animal ones and certain kinds of grains for others.

In the mid-1920s food industries entered a remarkable period of conglomeration as giant enterprises came to dominate the production of such foods as flour, bread, shortening, dairy and pork products, breakfast cereals, canned goods, and citrus fruits. Some of this was the result of their applying the mass production techniques of other industries to the production of food. However, conglomeration was also based on the creation of widely advertised brand names that helped assuage the anxieties that consumers naturally felt as food production grew ever more remote from them. Food producers hired hundreds of home economists to create and distribute millions of copies of recipes, usually of the British American kind, to promote the use of their products. By the end of the decade, their foods and recipes were penetrating the remotest reaches of the nation, causing the first, but by no means the last, warnings that distinctive regional cuisines were being replaced by a homogeneous national one.

The mechanization of food production was matched by the mechanization of housework. Gas and electric stoves with regulated ovens replaced monstrous wood-or coal-burning ones; canning raised hopes—and fears— that much of food preparation would be reduced to using a can opener and a few pots. The middle-class "servant problem" literally disappeared during the war, when most servants left domestic work for jobs, mostly in industry, with better pay and better hours. Also, activities such as movies, dances, spectator sports, and drives in the country by automobile came to compete directly for leisure time with family dinners. As a result, middle-class housewives now aimed at speed and simplicity in food preparation. By the mid-1920s the complaint that would resound among the middle class for the rest of the century—that families no longer ate together—was already commonplace.

Dieting and Food Supplements

A remarkable shift in attitudes toward body image contributed its share of anxiety to the mix. Before the war, a man's ample stomach was generally regarded as a sign of prosperity and stability and the reigning female beauties were decidedly hefty, particularly by later standards. The stage star Lillian Russell, the turn-of-the-century American Beauty, stood just a little more than five feet tall and is said to have weighed close to two hundred pounds. By 1920, however, ideals of attractiveness in both men and women were undergoing a sea change, as slimness became the ideal. In the movies, slim males such as Rudolph Valentino and petite females such as Mary Pickford became superstars. For women the "flapper" look, which reduced skirt lengths and did away with the old-style corsets and undergarments, made it very difficult to hide fleshy parts of the body. The result was the first wave of dieting for weight loss as the middle class began counting calories and buying bathroom scales.

In the wealthiest classes, the turn toward simplicity in eating was also spurred by Prohibition, which banned the sale of alcoholic beverages from January 1920 until it was repealed in 1933. It put an end to most luxury restaurants by depriving them of the profit margins from alcohol sales that underwrote the expenses of running a fine restaurant. Changing fashions in upper-class leisure activities also led the wealthy to reorient their social lives away from spectacular dinner parties and downsize their kitchen staffs.

Yet many Americans still did not have the luxury of picking and choosing what they ate. In depressed rural areas in particular, food supplies remained tied to the seasons and variety remained a problem. In large parts of the rural South, for example, poor people tied to cotton growing subsisted for much of the year on a diet based on little more than corn meal and salted pork. As a result, many suffered the scourge of pellagra, a debilitating, often deadly disease brought about by a deficiency of vitamin B.

Consciousness of the importance of vitamins increased quite slowly from the discovery of the first one in 1911. The understanding of their importance was spurred in the early 1920s, however, when newspapers and magazines carried striking photos of vitamin-deprived white mice that had lost their furry coats and gone blind. Food marketers seized on this to emphasize the importance of the vitamins in their products, particularly for children's health. By the mid-1930s producers of many foodstuffs, including yeast cakes, cocoa, and chewing gum, were taking advantage of the still-vague knowledge of the functions of vitamins and of the human need for them to promote unwarranted fears of vitamin deficiencies among consumers.

The Great Depression brought to the fore once again the idea that America was the land of food abundance, but now it was in the form of outrage that mountains of unsold grain were in the countryside while long lines of people waited in breadlines and went to soup kitchens. Despite the uncertainty over the actual human requirements for vitamins and minerals, government dietary surveys aroused concern over widespread malnutrition, not just among the poor, but of "hidden malnutrition" among the apparently well-fed middle class as well. Still, dieting for weight loss continued to be popular, particularly among middle-class women, who followed such fads as the grapefruit diet. Pulling them in yet another direction, however, was a renewed emphasis in the media on the importance, in the crisis time of the 1930s, of women preparing the ample, wholesome, British American–style family meal.

The Decline of Immigrant Food

The continuing hegemony of this kind of cooking was reinforced by the Americanization of immigrants' eating habits. The virtual cutoff of immigration from much of Europe and the Americas in the 1920s had deprived immigrant communities of new infusions of demand for old country foods. The children of immigrants attended public schools dominated by American-born teachers and administrators whose disapproval of their families' eating habits was manifest. Other students ridiculed them, reinforcing the lesson that their food was held in contempt in the wider community. As a result, children threw away their homemade ethnic lunches and demanded that their mothers prepare sandwiches made of Wonder Bread or allow them to eat in school cafeterias. Home economics classes, which taught British American cooking, reinforced this lesson for girls. These messages were often capped by marriage to someone of a different background. All of these factors ultimately led to the relegation of the immigrant food of the parents to nostalgic occasions. Of the major immigrant groups only Italian Americans, for whom food was extraordinarily important in family life, were able to resist these pressures. This was in part because they were able to adapt their cooking to American products and tastes and produce a distinctive Italian American cuisine whose signature dish, pasta and tomato sauce, become accepted into the American culinary pantheon.

War Rationing and Postwar Prosperity

The advent of World War II brought full employment, handsome paychecks, and the appropriation of a large portion of the food supply to the armed forces. The question of how to share equitably the rest of the food became paramount. The government's answer was to control food prices and use rationing to limit purchases of a number of foods that were in short supply, including sugar and meat. Although compliance with rationing was high, many Americans remained unconvinced that food shortages could exist in the land of abundance. There were recurring rumors that abundant supplies of the rationed foods existed, but that either government bungling or farmers' greed had caused the food to be destroyed or withheld from the market.

Still, rationing brought about a certain democratization of food consumption, since it enabled those at the bottom to eat better and put social pressure on those at the top to eat less luxuriously. This tendency of food to become more classless continued after the war as abundance again became the watchword. American farmers ratcheted up production as government subsidies financed mechanization, irrigation, and fertilization. The results were seen in more affordable foodstuffs. Beef prices declined and thick steaks sizzling on the backyard barbecues in the growing suburbs symbolized the achievement of the American Dream by large numbers of people. New poultry-raising techniques turned chicken from a special Sunday dish into an everyday one. Government officials and food industry leaders now boasted that Americans were the best-fed people on earth.

Government and industry officials also took pride in the great industrial strides that seemed to be making food preparation easier. Electric refrigerators, stoves, toasters, mixers, and other small appliances were hailed as easing the housewife's labors. Processed foods such as frozen vegetables and orange juice, TV dinners, processed cheeses, new kinds of canned goods, dried foods, and instant coffee were regarded as symbolizing the superiority of the American way of life. When Vice President Richard Nixon engaged the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in a much-publicized debate over the merits of their respective systems during Nixon's 1959 visit to Moscow, the vice president chose the model kitchen at an American exhibition as its venue.

Food Protest and Fast Food, and Foreign Cuisines

In the 1960s, however, faith in both the American system and American food began to be shaken. Even in the 1950s, questions were raised about the alleged carcinogenic qualities of some of the chemicals that were added to foods to help them survive the various new processes to which they were subjected. Then came fears that crop pesticides, especially DDT, were not only killing wildlife but were also tainting mothers' breast milk. Charges that processing robbed foods of their essential nutrients and that processed foods such as breakfast cereals were devoid of vitamins helped send millions of Americans flocking to vendors of vitamin supplements.

This rising skepticism dovetailed with the impact of the protest movements of the 1960s. By the late 1960s, doubts about the trustworthiness of government and the giant corporations that were thought to exert undue influence upon it were widespread, particularly among the young. The New Left blamed the giant corporations for problems ranging from the Vietnam War to America's "plastic" foods. The adherents of the counterculture, who extolled the natural over the artificial, rejected the products of large agro-industries and processed foods and tried to turn to the unadulterated products of the land for their food. The food industries responded quite adeptly to these challenges by reformulating and repackaging foods to make them seem more "natural," additive-free, and artisanal in origin. Still, although the New Left and the counterculture faded away in the 1970s, their critiques of American food helped make the public receptive to a continuing litany of complaints about the food supply. Charges were made that sugar was dangerous and addictive and that pesticide residues on apples were killers. Most lasting were charges that cholesterol in foods was responsible for Americans' high rates of heart disease, criticisms that vegetable oil and margarine producers ensured were widely publicized. Egg producers, dairy interests, and especially the beef industry reeled as health experts called for limited consumption of their products.

Beef producers emerged relatively unscathed, thanks in large part to the spectacular rise of fast-food restaurant chains, the largest of which sold hamburgers. These enterprises were part of a much broader trend that saw food preparation and consumption move out of the home at perhaps the fastest pace ever. A major reason was the steadily increasing proportion of middle-class mothers who remained in or returned to the workforce after their children were born. With little time for their traditional role of preparing family meals, they relied very much on all kinds of foods prepared outside the home.

The turn from the traditional way of preparing foods was accompanied by a drift away from traditional cuisine itself. In the 1960s food tastes again became significant signs of class and status, as an appreciation for a succession of foreign foods became a sign of distinction within the upper middle class. First, there was a revival of French food, followed by vogues of northern Italian and regional Chinese food. Then, in the late 1960s and the 1970s, the jet age brought a boom in foreign travel that helped make a somewhat adventurous approach to food a sign of distinction among the middle classes. Liberalized immigration laws brought in new waves of non-European people, some of whom were ready to cater to these new tastes. This, plus the continuing globalization of the trade in foods, gave Americans access to an impressive choice of previously exotic cuisines and foods.

The Persistence of Food Anxiety

Yet the abundance of choice did little to quell persisting anxiety over food. Concerns over weight became more extreme than ever as ideal body images became impossible to achieve for all but a very small minority of women. Dangerous eating disorders became common among the young. The cholesterol scare became increasingly confusing and disturbing as Americans were told that there was both "good" and "bad" cholesterol, and that millions of them had been inadvertently eating the bad variety in forms such as margarine that they had previously been told were good. As the population aged, more people became ripe for messages promising that certain foods and diets would head off life-threatening ailments. They consumed more olive oil and red wine and tried to follow a Mediterranean diet not dissimilar to the kind that millions of immigrants had fled at the turn of the century. They tried to follow new government dietary guidelines that called for drastic increases in the consumption of foods thought to promote longevity and reductions in those thought to reduce it. New regulations permitted advertisements for such foods as ketchup to imply they promoted longevity. The English wag who observed that "Americans like to think that death is optional" did not seem far off base.

Anxiety about harmful ingredients contained in food continued, with the most serious concern directed at the most obvious product of abundance: calories. Americans recoiled at ever-more-alarming statistics on rising rates of obesity and their fearful health consequences. The major culprits were said to be the most distinctive of the foods produced by the modern food conglomerates: crispy snack foods, soda pop, and the fare in fast-food restaurants. As they had from the outset, Europeans still looked in wonder at America as the land of abundance, but now it was one of abundant waistlines. Only increasing indications that they themselves might be headed down the same path gave them pause.


Belasco, Warren. Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took On the Food Industry, 1966–1988. New York: Pantheon, 1989.

Bentley, Amy. Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Conlin, Joseph. Beans, Bacon, and Galantines: Food and Foodways on the Western Mining Frontier. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1986.

Cummings, Richard Osborn. The American and His Food: A History of Food Habits in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940.

Gabbaccia, Donna R. We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food in the Making of Americans. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Hooker, Richard J. Food and Drink in America: A History. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1981.

Levenstein, Harvey A. Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

———. Paradox of Plenty: The Social History of Eating in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Oliver, Sandra. Saltwater Foodways. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1995.

Shapiro, Laura. Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1986.

Stearns, Peter. Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

Williams, Susan. Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America. New York: Pantheon, 1985.

—Harvey Levenstein

Columbia Encyclopedia:

United States

United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and in area. It consists of 50 states and a federal district. The conterminous (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) United States stretches across central North America from the Atlantic Ocean on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west, and from Canada on the north to Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico on the south. The state of Alaska is located in extreme NW North America between the Arctic and Pacific oceans and is bordered by Canada on the east. The state of Hawaii, an island chain, is situated in the E central Pacific Ocean c.2,100 mi (3,400 km) SW of San Francisco. Washington, D.C., is the capital of the United States, and New York is its largest city.

The outlying territories and areas of the United States include: in the Caribbean Basin, Puerto Rico (a commonwealth associated with the United States) and the Virgin Islands of the United States (purchased from Denmark in 1917); in the Pacific Ocean, Guam (ceded by Spain after the Spanish-American War), the Northern Mariana Islands (a commonwealth associated with the United States), American Samoa, Wake Island, and several other islands. The United States also has compacts of free association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Political Geography

The conterminous United States may be divided into several regions: the New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut), the Middle Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia), the Southeastern states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky), the states of the Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri), the Great Plains states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas), the Mountain states (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah), the Southwestern states (Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona), and the states of the Far West (Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada).

Alaska is the largest state in area (656,424 sq mi/1,700,578 sq km), and Rhode Island is the smallest (1,545 sq mi/4,003 sq km). California has the largest population (2000 pop. 33,871,648), while Wyoming has the fewest people (2000 pop. 493,782). In the late 20th cent., Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Utah, Georgia, and Texas experienced the fastest rates of population growth, while California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina gained the greatest number of residents. West Virginia, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia experienced population decreases over the same period. The largest U.S. cities are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia. Among the other major cities are Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia Beach, Charlotte, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Saint Louis, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, Long Beach, San Diego, and Honolulu.

Physical Geography

The conterminous United States may be divided into seven broad physiographic divisions: from east to west, the Atlantic-Gulf Coastal Plain; the Appalachian Highlands; the Interior Plains; the Interior Highlands; the Rocky Mountain System; the Intermontane Region; and the Pacific Mountain System. An eighth division, the Laurentian Uplands, a part of the Canadian Shield, dips into the United States from Canada in the Great Lakes region. It is an area of little local relief, with an irregular drainage system and many lakes, as well as some of the oldest exposed rocks in the United States.

The terrain of the N United States was formed by the great continental ice sheets that covered N North America during the late Cenozoic Era. The southern edge of the ice sheet is roughly traced by a line of terminal moraines extending west from E Long Island and then along the course of the Ohio and Missouri rivers to the Rocky Mts.; land north of this line is covered by glacial material. Alaska and the mountains of NW United States had extensive mountain glaciers and were heavily eroded. Large glacial lakes (see Lake Bonneville under Bonneville Salt Flats; Lahontan, Lake) occupied sections of the Basin and Range province; the Great Salt Lake and the other lakes of this region are remnants of the glacial lakes.

The East and the Gulf Coast

The Atlantic-Gulf Coastal Plain extends along the east and southeast coasts of the United States from E Long Island to the Rio Grande; Cape Cod and the islands off SE Massachusetts are also part of this region. Although narrow in the north, the Atlantic Coastal Plain widens in the south, merging with the Gulf Coastal Plain in Florida. The Atlantic and Gulf coasts are essentially coastlines of submergence, with numerous estuaries, embayments, islands, sandspits, and barrier beaches backed by lagoons. The northeast coast has many fine natural harbors, such as those of New York Bay and Chesapeake Bay, but south of the great capes of the North Carolina coast (Fear, Lookout, and Hatteras) there are few large bays. A principal feature of the lagoon-lined Gulf Coast is the great delta of the Mississippi River.

The Atlantic Coastal Plain rises in the west to the rolling Piedmont (the falls along which were an early source of waterpower), a hilly transitional zone leading to the Appalachian Mountains. These ancient mountains, a once towering system now worn low by erosion, extend southwest from SE Canada to the Gulf Coastal Plain in Alabama. In E New England, the Appalachians extend in a few places to the Atlantic Ocean, contributing to a rocky, irregular coastline. The Appalachians and the Adirondack Mountains of New York (which are geologically related to the Canadian Shield) include all the chief highlands of E United States; Mt. Mitchell (6,684 ft/2,037 m high), in the Black Mts. of North Carolina, is the highest point of E North America.

The Plains and Highlands of the Interior

Extending more than 1,000 mi (1,610 km) from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mts. and lying between Canada (into which they extend) in the north and the Gulf Coastal Plain in the south are the undulating Interior Plains. Once covered by a great inland sea, the Interior Plains are underlain by sedimentary rock. Almost all of the region is drained by one of the world's greatest river systems-the Mississippi-Missouri. The Interior Plains may be divided into two sections: the fertile central lowlands, the agricultural heartland of the United States; and the Great Plains, a treeless plateau that gently rises from the central lowlands to the foothills of the Rocky Mts. The Black Hills of South Dakota form the region's only upland area.

The Interior Highlands are located just W of the Mississippi River between the Interior Plains and the Gulf Coastal Plain. This region consists of the rolling Ozark Plateau (see Ozarks) to the north and the Ouachita Mountains, which are similar in structure to the ridge and valley section of the Appalachians, to the east.

The Western Mountains and Great Basin

West of the Great Plains are the lofty Rocky Mountains. This geologically young and complex system extends into NW United States from Canada and runs S into New Mexico. There are numerous high peaks in the Rockies; the highest is Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft/4,399 m). The Rocky Mts. are divided into four sections-the Northern Rockies, the Middle Rockies, the Wyoming (Great Divide) Basin, and the Southern Rockies. Along the crest of the Rockies is the Continental Divide, separating Atlantic-bound drainage from that heading for the Pacific Ocean.

Between the Rocky Mts. and the ranges to the west is the Intermontane Region, an arid expanse of plateaus, basins, and ranges. The Columbia Plateau, in the north of the region, was formed by volcanic lava and is drained by the Columbia River and its tributary the Snake River, both of which have cut deep canyons into the plateau. The enormous Colorado Plateau, an area of sedimentary rock, is drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries; there the Colorado River has entrenched itself to form the Grand Canyon, one of the world's most impressive scenic wonders. West of the plateaus is the Basin and Range province, an area of extensive semidesert.

The lowest point in North America, in Death Valley (282 ft/86 m below sea level), is there. The largest basin in the region is the Great Basin, an area of interior drainage (the Humboldt River is the largest stream) and of numerous salt lakes, including the Great Salt Lake. Between the Intermontane Region and the Pacific Ocean is the Pacific Mountain System, a series of ranges generally paralleling the coast, formed by faulting and volcanism. The Cascade Range, with its numerous volcanic peaks extends S from SW Canada into N California, and from there is continued south by the Sierra Nevada, a great fault block. Mt. Whitney (14,495 ft/4,418 m), in the Sierra Nevada, is the highest peak in the conterminous United States.

The Pacific Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii

West of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada and separated from them by a structural trough are the Coast Ranges, which extend along the length of the U.S. Pacific coast. The Central Valley in California, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the Puget Sound lowlands in Washington are part of the trough. The San Andreas Fault, a fracture in the earth's crust, parallels the trend of the Coast Ranges from San Francisco Bay SE to NW Mexico; earthquakes are common along its entire length. The Pacific Coastal Plain is narrow, and in many cases the mountains plunge directly into the sea. A coastline of emergence, it has few islands, except for the Channel Islands (see Santa Barbara Islands) and those in Puget Sound; there are few good harbors besides Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, and San Diego Bay.

Alaska may be divided into four physiographic regions; they are, from north to south, the Arctic Lowlands, the coastal plain of the Arctic Ocean; the Rocky Mountain System, of which the Brooks Range is the northernmost section; the Central Basins and Highlands Region, which is dominated by the Yukon River basin; and the Pacific Mountain System, which parallels Alaska's southern coast and which rises to Mt. McKinley (Denali; 20,320 ft/6,194 m), the highest peak of North America. The islands of SE Alaska and those of the Aleutian Islands chain are partially submerged portions of the Pacific Mountain System and are frequently subjected to volcanic activity and earthquakes. These islands, like those of Hawaii, are the tops of volcanoes that rise from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii are active volcanoes; the other Hawaiian islands are extinct volcanoes.

Major Rivers and Lakes

The United States has an extensive inland waterway system, much of which has been improved for navigation and flood control and developed to produce hydroelectricity and irrigation water by such agencies as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Some of the world's larger dams, man-made lakes, and hydroelectric power plants are on U.S. rivers. The Mississippi-Missouri river system (c.3,890 mi/6,300 km long), is the longest in the United States and the second longest in the world. With its hundreds of tributaries, chief among which are the Red River, the Ohio, and the Arkansas, the Mississippi basin drains more than half of the nation. The Yukon, Columbia, Colorado, and Rio Grande also have huge drainage basins. Other notable river systems include the Connecticut, Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna, Potomac, James, Alabama, Trinity, San Joaquin, and Sacramento.

The Great Salt Lake and Alaska's Iliamna are the largest U.S. lakes outside the Great Lakes and Lake of the Woods, which are shared with Canada (Lake Michigan and Iliamna are the largest freshwater lakes entirely within the United States). The Illinois Waterway connects the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River, and the New York State Canal System links them with the Hudson. The Intracoastal Waterway provides sheltered passage for shallow draft vessels along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.


The United States has a broad range of climates, varying from the tropical rain-forest of Hawaii and the tropical savanna of S Florida (where the Everglades are found) to the subarctic and tundra climates of Alaska. East of the 100th meridian (the general dividing line between the dry and humid climates) are the humid subtropical climate of SE United States and the humid continental climate of NE United States. Extensive forests are found in both these regions. West of the 100th meridian are the steppe climate and the grasslands of the Great Plains; trees are found along the water courses.

In the SW United States are the deserts of the basin and range province, with the hottest and driest spots in the United States. Along the Pacific coast are the Mediterranean-type climate of S California and, extending north into SE Alaska, the marine West Coast climate. The Pacific Northwest is one of the wettest parts of the United States and is densely forested. The Rocky Mts., Cascades, and Sierra Nevada have typical highland climates and are also heavily forested. In addition to the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Great Salt Lake in Utah, widely publicized geographic marvels of the United States include Niagara Falls, on the New York-Canada border; the pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah; and the geysers of Yellowstone National Park, primarily in Wyoming (for others, see National Parks and Monuments, table).


More than 79% of the United States population are urban (and more than 50% are estimated to be suburban, a not strictly defined category that can be taken as a subset of urban), and the great majority of the inhabitants are of European descent. According to the U.S. census, as of 2000 the largest minority were Hispanics, who, at 35,305,818 people, accounted for 12.5% of the population; this figure includes people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and many other origins (who may be any race). The African-American population numbered 34,658,190, or 12.3% of the population, although an additional 0.6% of the population were of African-American descent in part. The Asian population totaled 10,242,998 in 2000, or 3.6%, and consisted predominantly of people of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, or Japanese origin; an additional 0.6% of the population had a mixed-race background that was partially Asian. The Native American population of the United States, which included natives of Alaska such as Eskimos and Aleuts, was 2,475,956, or 0.9%, but an additional 0.6% were of partial Native American descent. Roughly a third of Native Americans lived on reservations, trust lands, territories, or other lands under Native American jurisdiction. Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 398,835 in 2000, or 0.1% of the population; an additional 0.2% were of partial Pacific Island descent. Persons who defined themselves as being of mixed racial background constituted 2.4% of the population in 2000, but the number of people with a mixed racial background, especially in the African-American and Hispanic populations, was in fact much higher. About 82% of the people speak English and about 11% speak Spanish as their first language. There are large numbers of speakers of many other Indo-European and Asian languages, and most languages of the world are spoken somewhere in the United States.

In addition to the original group of British settlers in the colonies of the Atlantic coast, numerous other national groups were introduced by immigration. Large numbers of Africans were transported in chains under abysmal conditions to work as slaves, chiefly on the plantations of the South. When the United States was developing rapidly with the settlement of the West (where some earlier groups of French and Spanish settlers were absorbed), immigrants from Europe poured into the land. An important early group was the Scotch-Irish. Just before the middle of the 19th cent., Irish and German immigrants were predominant. A little later the Scandinavian nations supplied many settlers.

After the Civil War, the immigrants came mainly from the nations of S and E Europe: from Italy, Greece, Russia, the part of Poland then in Russia, and from Austria-Hungary and the Balkans. During this period, there were also large numbers of immigrants from China. During the peak years of immigration between 1890 and 1924 more than 15 million immigrants arrived in the United States. After the immigration law of 1924 (see immigration), immigration was heavily restricted until the mid-1960s. Since the 1980s, large numbers of new immigrants have arrived. U.S. Census Bureau figures indicate that the proportion of foreign-born people in the U.S. population reached 11.1% in 2000, the highest it had been since the 1930 census; more than 40% of the more than 31 million foreign born had arrived since 1990. More than half of all foreign-born persons in the United States are from Latin America, and more than a quarter are from Asia.

Religion and Education

There is religious freedom in the United States, and the overwhelming majority of Americans are Christians. In turn, the majority of Christians are Protestants, but of many denominations. The largest single Christian group embraces members (some 61 million in 1999) of the Roman Catholic Church; the Orthodox Eastern Church is also represented. In addition, roughly 2.5% of Americans adhere to Judaism, and some 1%-2% are Muslims. Education in the United States is administered chiefly by the states. Each of the 50 states has a free and public primary and secondary school system. There are also in the United States more than 3,500 institutions of higher learning, both privately supported and state supported (see separate articles on individual colleges and universities).


The mineral and agricultural resources of the United States are tremendous. Although the country was virtually self-sufficient in the past, increasing consumption, especially of energy, continues to make it dependent on certain imports. It is, nevertheless, the world's largest producer of both electrical and nuclear energy. It leads all nations in the production of liquid natural gas, aluminum, sulfur, phosphates, and salt. It is also a leading producer of copper, gold, coal, crude oil, nitrogen, iron ore, silver, uranium, lead, zinc, mica, molybdenum, and magnesium. Although its output has declined, the United States is among the world leaders in the production of pig iron and ferroalloys, steel, motor vehicles, and synthetic rubber. Agriculturally, the United States is first in the production of cheese, corn, soybeans, and tobacco. The United States is also one of the largest producers of cattle, hogs, cow's milk, butter, cotton, oats, wheat, barley, and sugar; it is the world's leading exporter of wheat and corn and ranks third in rice exports. In 1995, U.S. fisheries ranked fifth in the world in total production.

Major U.S. exports include aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, food, iron and steel products, electric and electronic equipment, industrial and power-generating machinery, organic chemicals, transistors, telecommunications equipment, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods. Leading imports include ores and metal scraps, petroleum and petroleum products, machinery, transportation equipment (especially automobiles), food, clothing, computers, and paper and paper products. The major U.S. trading partners are Canada (in the world's largest bilateral trade relationship), Mexico, China, Japan, Great Britain, Germany, and South Korea. Despite the steady growth in imports, the gross domestic product also has continued to rise, and in 2006 it was easily the largest in the world at about $13 trillion. The development of the economy has been spurred by the growth of a complex network of communications not only by railroad, highways, inland waterways, and air but also by telephone, radio, television, computer (including the Internet), and fax machine. This infrastructure has fostered not only agricultural and manufacturing growth but has also contributed to the leading position the United States holds in world tourism revenues and to the ongoing shift to a service-based economy. In 1996 some 74% of Americans worked in service industries, a proportion matched, among major economic powers, only by Canada.


The government of the United States is that of a federal republic set up by the Constitution of the United States, adopted by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. There is a division of powers between the federal government and the state governments. The federal government consists of three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The executive power is vested in the President and, in the event of the President's incapacity, the Vice President. (For a chronological list of all the presidents and vice presidents of the United States, including their terms in office and political parties, see the table entitled Presidents of the United States.) The executive conducts the administrative business of the nation with the aid of a cabinet composed of the Attorney General and the Secretaries of the Departments of State; Treasury; Defense; Interior; Agriculture; Commerce; Labor; Health and Human Services; Education; Housing and Urban Development; Transportation; Energy; and Veterans' Affairs.

The Congress of the United States, the legislative branch, is bicameral and consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judicial branch is formed by the federal courts and headed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The members of the Congress are elected by universal suffrage (see election) as are the members of the electoral college, which formally chooses the President and the Vice President.


European Exploration and Settlement

Exploration of the area now included in the United States was spurred after Christopher Columbus, sailing for the Spanish monarchy, made his voyage in 1492. John Cabot explored the North American coast for England in 1498. Men who were important explorers for Spain in what now constitutes the United States include Ponce de León, Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando De Soto, and Coronado; important explorers for France were Giovanni da Verrazano, Samuel de Champlain, Louis Jolliet, Jacques Marquette, and La Salle. These three nations-England, Spain, and France-were the chief nations to establish colonies in the present United States, although others also took part, especially the Netherlands in the establishment of New Netherland (explored by Henry Hudson), which became New York, and Sweden in a colony on the Delaware River (see New Sweden).

The first permanent settlement in the present United States was Saint Augustine (Florida), founded in 1565 by the Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Spanish control came to be exercised over Florida, West Florida, Texas, and a large part of the Southwest, including California. For the purposes of finding precious metals and of converting heathens to Catholicism, the Spanish colonies in the present United States were relatively unfruitful and thus were never fully developed. The French established strongholds on the St. Lawrence River (Quebec and Montreal) and spread their influence over the Great Lakes country and along the Mississippi; the colony of Louisiana was a flourishing French settlement. The French government, like the Spanish, tolerated only the Catholic faith, and it implanted the rigid and feudalistic seignorial system of France in its North American possessions. Partly for these reasons, the French settlements attracted few colonists.

The English settlements, which were on the Atlantic seaboard, developed in patterns more suitable to the New World, with greater religious freedom and economic opportunity. The first permanent English settlement was made at Jamestown (Virginia) in 1607. The first English settlements in Virginia were managed by a chartered commercial company, the Virginia Company; economic motives were paramount to the company in founding the settlements. The Virginia colony early passed to control by the crown and became a characteristic type of English colony-the royal colony. Another type-the corporate colony-was initiated by the settlement of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in 1620 and by the establishment of the more important Massachusetts Bay colony by the Puritans in 1630.

Religious motives were important in the founding of these colonies. The colonists of Massachusetts Bay brought with them from England the charter and the governing corporation of the colony, which thus became a corporate one, i.e., one controlled by its own resident corporation. The corporate status of the Plymouth Colony, evinced in the Mayflower Compact, was established by the purchase (1626) of company and charter from the holders in England. Connecticut and Rhode Island, which were offshoots of Massachusetts, owed allegiance to no English company; their corporate character was confirmed by royal charters, granted to Connecticut in 1662 and to Rhode Island in 1663. A third type of colony was the proprietary, founded by lords proprietors under quasi-feudal grants from the king; prime examples are Maryland (under the Calvert family) and Pennsylvania (under William Penn).

The religious and political turmoil of the Puritan Revolution in England, as well as the repression of the Huguenots in France, helped to stimulate emigration to the English colonies. Hopes of economic betterment brought thousands from England as well as a number from Germany and other continental countries. To obtain passage across the Atlantic, the poor often indentured themselves to masters in the colonies for a specified number of years. The colonial population was also swelled by criminals transported from England as a means of punishment. Once established as freedmen, former bondsmen and transportees were frequently allotted land with which to make their way in the New World.

Colonial America

The colonies were subject to English mercantilism in the form of Navigation Acts, begun under Cromwell and developed more fully after the Stuart Restoration. As shown by C. M. Andrews, G. L. Beer, and later historians, the colonies at first benefited by these acts, which established a monopoly of the English market for certain colonial products. Distinct colonial economies emerged, reflecting the regional differences of climate and topography. Agriculture was of primary importance in all the regions.

In New England many crops were grown, corn being the closest to a staple, and agricultural holdings were usually of moderate size. Fur trade was at first important, but it died out when the New England Confederation defeated Philip in King Philip's War and the Native Americans were dispersed. Fishing and commerce gained in importance, and the economic expansion of Massachusetts encouraged the founding of other New England colonies.

In the middle colonies small farms abounded, interspersed with occasional great estates, and diverse crops were grown, wheat being most important. Land there was almost universally held through some form of feudal grant, as it was also in the South. Commerce grew quickly in the middle colonies, and large towns flourished, notably Philadelphia and New York.

By the late 17th cent. small farms in the coastal areas of the South were beginning to give way to large plantations; these were developed with the slave labor of Africans, who were imported in ever-increasing numbers. During the 18th cent. some 1.5 million African slaves were transported to the colonies, more than three times the number of free immigrants. Plantations were almost exclusively devoted to cultivation of the great Southern staples-tobacco, rice, and, later, indigo. Fur trade and lumbering were long important. Although some towns developed, the Southern economy remained the least diversified and the most rural in colonial America.

In religion, too, the colonies developed in varied patterns. In Massachusetts the religious theocracy of the Puritan oligarchy flourished. By contrast, Rhode Island allowed full religious freedom; there Baptists were in the majority, but other sects were soon in evidence. New Jersey and South Carolina also allowed complete religious liberty, and such colonies as Maryland and Pennsylvania established large measures of toleration. Maryland was at first a haven for Catholics, and Pennsylvania similarly a haven for Quakers, but within a few decades numerous Anglicans had settled in those colonies. Anglicans were also much in evidence further south, as were Presbyterians, most of them Scotch-Irish.

Politically, the colonies developed representative institutions, the most important being the vigorous colonial assemblies. Popular participation was somewhat limited by property qualifications. In the proprietary colonies, particularly, the settlers came into conflict with the executive authority. Important points of difference arose over the granting of large estates to a few, over the great power of the proprietors, over the failure of the proprietors (who generally lived in England) to cope with problems of defense, and over religious grievances, frequently stemming from a struggle for dominance between Anglicans and other groups. In corporate Massachusetts religious grievances were created by the zealous Puritan demand for conformity.

These conflicts, together with England's desire to coordinate empire defenses against France and to gain closer control of the colonies' thriving economic life, stimulated England to convert corporate and proprietary colonies into royal ones. In general, royal control brought more orderly government and greater religious toleration, but it also focused the colonists' grievances on the mother country. The policies of the governors, who were the chief instruments of English will in the colonies, frequently met serious opposition. The colonial assemblies clashed with the governors-notably with Edmund Andros and Francis Nicholson-especially over matters of taxation. The assemblies successfully resisted royal demands for permanent income to support royal policies and used their powers over finance to expand their own jurisdiction.

As the 18th cent. progressed, colonial grievances were exacerbated. The British mercantile regulations, beneficial to agriculture, impeded the colonies' commercial and industrial development. However, economic and social growth continued, and by the mid-18th cent. there had been created a greater sense of a separate, thriving, and distinctly American, albeit varied, civilization. In New England, Puritan values were modified by the impact of commerce and by the influence of the Enlightenment, while in the South the planter aristocracy developed a lavish mode of life. Enlightenment ideals also gained influential adherents in the South. Higher education flourished in such institutions as Harvard, William and Mary, and King's College (now Columbia Univ.). The varied accomplishments of Benjamin Franklin epitomized colonial common sense at its most enlightened and productive level.

A religious movement of importance emerged in the revivals of the Great Awakening, stimulated by Jonathan Edwards; the movement ultimately led to a strengthening of Methodism. Also inherent in this movement was egalitarian sentiment, which progressed but was not to triumph in the colonial era. One manifestation of egalitarianism was the long-continued conflict between the men of the frontiers and the wealthy Eastern oligarchs who dominated the assemblies, a conflict exemplified in the Regulator movement. Colonial particularism, still stronger than national feeling, caused the failure of the Albany Congress to achieve permanent union. However, internal strife and disunity remained a less urgent issue than the controversy with Great Britain.

The States in Union

After the British and colonial forces had combined to drive the French from Canada and the Great Lakes region in the French and Indian War (1754-60; see under French and Indian Wars), the colonists felt less need of British protection; but at this very time the British began colonial reorganization in an effort to impose on the colonists the costs of their own defense. Thus was set off the complex chain of events that united colonial sentiment against Great Britain and culminated in the American Revolution (1775-83; the events are described under that heading).

The Revolution resulted in the independence of the Thirteen Colonies: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; their territories were recognized as extending north to Canada and west to the Mississippi River. The Revolution also broadened representation in government, advanced the movement for separation of church and state in America, increased opportunities for westward expansion, and brought the abolition of the remnants of feudal land tenure. The view that the Revolution had been fought for local liberty against strong central control reinforced the particularism of the states and was reflected in the weak union established under the Articles of Confederation (see Confederation, Articles of).

Before ratification of the Articles (1781), conflicting claims of states to Western territories had been settled by the cession of Western land rights to the federal government; the Ordinance of 1787 established a form of government for territories and a method of admitting them as states to the Union. But the national government floundered. It could not obtain commercial treaties or enforce its will in international relations, and, largely because it could not raise adequate revenue and had no executive authority, it was weak domestically. Local economic depressions bred discontent that erupted in Shays's Rebellion, further revealing the weakness of the federal government.

Advocates of strong central government bitterly attacked the Articles of Confederation; supported particularly by professional and propertied groups, they had a profound influence on the Constitution drawn up by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The Constitution created a national government with ample powers for effective rule, which were limited by "checks and balances" to forestall tyranny or radicalism. Its concept of a strong, orderly Union was popularized by the Federalist papers (see Federalist, The) of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, which played an important part in winning ratification of the Constitution by the separate states.

Washington, Adams, and Jefferson

The first person to be elected President under the Constitution was the hero of the Revolution, George Washington. Washington introduced many government practices and institutions, including the cabinet. Jay's Treaty (1794) allayed friction with Great Britain. Hamilton, as Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, promulgated a strong state and attempted to advance the economic development of the young country by a neomercantilist program; this included the establishment of a protective tariff, a mint, and the first Bank of the United States as well as assumption of state and private Revolutionary debts. The controversy raised by these policies bred divisions along factional and, ultimately, party lines.

Hamilton and his followers, who eventually formed the Federalist party, favored wide activity by the federal government under a broad interpretation of the Constitution. Their opponents, who adhered to principles laid down by Thomas Jefferson and who became the Democratic Republican or Democratic party, favored narrow construction-limited federal jurisdiction and activities. To an extent these divisions were supported by economic differences, as the Democrats largely spoke for the agrarian point of view and the Federalists represented propertied and mercantile interests.

Extreme democrats like Thomas Paine had ebullient faith in popular government and popular mores; Joel Barlow, too, envisioned a great popular culture evolving in America. From such optimists came schemes for broad popular education and participation in government. Men like John Adams had mixed views on the good sense of the masses, and many more conservative thinkers associated the "people" with vulgarity and ineptitude. The Federalists generally represented a pessimistic and the Democrats an optimistic view of man's inherent capacity to govern and develop himself; in practice, however, the values held by these two groups were often mixed. That a long road to democracy was still to be traveled is seen in the fact that in the late 18th cent. few but the economically privileged took part in political affairs.

The Federalists were victorious in electing John Adams to the presidency in 1796. Federalist conservatism and anti-French sentiment were given vent in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and in other acts. Deteriorating relations with France were seen in the XYZ Affair and the "half war" (1798-1800), in which U.S. warships engaged French vessels in the Caribbean. The so-called Revolution of 1800 swept the Federalists from power and brought Jefferson to the presidency. Jefferson did bring a plainer and more republican style to government, and under him the Alien and Sedition Acts and other Federalist laws were allowed to lapse or were repealed.

Jefferson moved toward stronger use of federal powers, however, in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase (1803). In foreign policy he steered an officially neutral course between Great Britain and France, resisting the war sentiment roused by British impressment of American seamen and by both British and French violations of American shipping. He fostered the drastic Embargo Act of 1807 in an attempt to gain recognition of American rights through economic pressure, but the embargo struck hardest against the American economy, especially in New England.

Madison, Monroe, and Adams

Under Jefferson's successor, James Madison, the continued depredations of American shipping, combined with the clamor of American "war hawks" who coveted Canada and Florida, led to the War of 1812, which was, however, opposed in New England (see Hartford Convention). The Treaty of Ghent (see Ghent, Treaty of) settled no specific issues of the war, but did confirm the independent standing of the young republic. Politically, the period that followed was the so-called era of good feeling. The Federalists had disintegrated under the impact of the country's westward expansion and its new interests and ideals. Democrats of all sections had by now adopted a Federalist approach to national development and were temporarily in agreement on a nationalist, expansionist economic policy. This policy was implemented in 1816 by the introduction of internal improvements, a protective tariff, and the second Bank of the United States.

The same policies were continued under James Monroe. The Monroe Doctrine (1823), which proclaimed U.S. opposition to European intervention or colonization in the American hemisphere, introduced the long-continuing U.S. concern for the integrity of the Western Hemisphere. Domestically, the strength of the federal government was increased by the judicial decisions of John Marshall, who had already helped establish the power of the U.S. Supreme Court. By 1820, however, sectional differences were arousing political discord. The sections of the country had long been developing along independent lines.

In the North, merchants, manufacturers, inventors, farmers, and factory hands were busy with commerce, agricultural improvements, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. In the South, Eli Whitney's cotton gin had brought in its wake a new staple; cotton was king, and the new states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi were the pride of the cotton kingdom. The accession of Florida (1819) further swelled the domain of the South. The American West was expanding as the frontier rapidly advanced. Around the turn of the century settlement of territory W of the Appalachians had given rise to the new states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. Settlers continued to move farther west, and the frontier remained a molding force in American life.

The Missouri Compromise (1820) temporarily resolved the issue of slavery in new states, but under the presidency of John Quincy Adams sectional differences were aggravated. Particular friction, leading to the nullification movement, was created by the tariff of 1828, which was highly favorable to Northern manufacturing but a "Tariff of Abominations" to the agrarian South. In the 1820s and 30s the advance of democracy brought manhood suffrage to many states and virtual direct election of the President, and party nominating conventions replaced the caucus. Separation of church and state became virtually complete.

Jackson to the Mexican War

An era of political vigor was begun with the election (1828) of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. If Jackson was not, as sometimes represented, the incarnation of frontier democracy, he nonetheless symbolized the advent of the common man to political power. He provided powerful executive leadership, attuned to popular support, committing himself to a strong foreign policy and to internal improvements for the West. His stand for economic individualism and his attacks on such bastions of the moneyed interests as the Bank of the United States won the approval of the growing middle class. Jackson acted firmly for the Union in the nullification controversy. But the South became increasingly dissident, and John C. Calhoun emerged as its chief spokesman with his states' rights doctrine.

Opponents of Jackson's policies, including both Northern and Southern conservative propertied interests, amalgamated to form the Whig party, in which Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were long the dominant figures. Jackson's successor, Martin Van Buren, attempted to perpetuate Jacksonian policies, but his popularity was undermined by the panic of 1837. In 1840, in their "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign, the conservative Whigs adopted and perfected the Democratic party's techniques of mass appeal and succeeded in electing William Henry Harrison as President. The West was winning greater attention in American life, and in the 1840s expansion to the Pacific was fervently proclaimed as the "manifest destiny" of the United States.

Annexation of the Republic of Texas (which had won its own independence from Mexico), long delayed primarily by controversy over its slave-holding status, was accomplished by Harrison's successor, John Tyler, three days before the expiration of his term. Tyler's action was prompted by the surprising victory of his Democratic successor, James K. Polk, who had campaigned on the planks of "reoccupation of Oregon" and "reannexation of Texas." The annexation of Texas precipitated the Mexican War; by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the United States acquired two fifths of the territory then belonging to Mexico, including California and the present American Southwest. In 1853 these territories were rounded out by the Gadsden Purchase. Although in the dispute with Great Britain over the Columbia River country (see Oregon), Americans demanded "Fifty-four forty or fight," under President Polk a peaceful if more modest settlement was reached. Thus the United States gained its Pacific Northwest, and "manifest destiny" was virtually fulfilled.

In California the discovery of gold in 1848 brought the rush of forty-niners, swelling population and making statehood for California a pressing question. The westward movement was also stimulated by many other factors. The great profits from open-range cattle ranching brought a stream of ranchers to the area (this influx was to reach fever pitch after the Civil War). The American farmer, with his abundant land, was often profligate in its cultivation, and as the soil depleted he continued to move farther west, settling the virgin territory. Soil exhaustion was particularly rapid in the South, where a one-crop economy prevailed, but because cotton profits were frequently high the plantation system quickly spread as far west as Texas. Occupation of the West was also sped by European immigrants hungry for land.

Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction

By the mid-19th cent. the territorial gains and westward movement of the United States were focusing legislative argument on the extension of slavery to the new territories and breaking down the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Wilmot Proviso illustrated Northern antislavery demands, while Southerners, too, became increasingly intransigent. Only with great effort was the Compromise of 1850 achieved, and it was to be the last great compromise between the sections. The new Western states, linked in outlook to the North, had long since caused the South to lose hold of the House of Representatives, and Southern parity in the Senate was threatened by the prospective addition of more free states than slaveholding ones. The South demanded stronger enforcement of fugitive slave laws and, dependent on sympathetic Presidents, obtained it from Millard Fillmore and especially from Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), which repealed the Missouri Compromise, led to violence between factions in "bleeding Kansas" and spurred the founding of the new Republican party. Although there was sentiment for moderation and compromise in both North and South, it became increasingly difficult to take a middle stand on the slavery issue, and extremists came to the fore on both sides. Southerners, unable to accept the end of slavery, upon which their entire system of life was based, and fearful of slave insurrection (especially after the revolt led by Nat Turner in 1831), felt threatened by the abolitionists, who regarded themselves as leaders in a moral crusade. Southerners attempted to uphold slavery as universally beneficial and biblically sanctioned, while Northerners were increasingly unable to countenance the institution.

Vigorous antislavery groups like the Free-Soil party had already arisen, and as the conflict became more embittered it rent the older parties. The Whig party was shattered, and its Northern wing was largely absorbed in the new antislavery Republican party. The Democrats were also torn, and the compromise policies of Stephen A. Douglas were of dwindling satisfaction to a divided nation. Moderation could not withstand the impact of the decision in the Dred Scott Case, which denied the right of Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories, or the provocation of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry (1859). The climax came in 1860 when the Republican Abraham Lincoln defeated three opponents to win the presidency.

Southern leaders, feeling there was no possibility of fair treatment under a Republican administration, resorted to secession from the Union and formed the Confederacy. The attempts of the seceding states to take over federal property within their borders (notably Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C.) precipitated the Civil War (1861-65), which resulted in a complete victory for the North and the end of all slavery. The ensuing problems of Reconstruction in the South were complicated by bitter struggles, including the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Military rule in parts of the South continued through the administrations of Ulysses S. Grant, which were also notable for their outrageous corruption. A result of the disputed election of 1876, in which the decision was given to Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel J. Tilden, was the end of Reconstruction and the reentry of the South into national politics.

The Late Nineteenth Century

The remainder of the 19th cent. was marked by railroad building (assisted by generous federal land grants) and the disappearance of the American frontier. Great mineral wealth was discovered and exploited, and important technological innovations sped industrialization, which had already gained great impetus during the Civil War. Thus developed an economy based on steel, oil, railroads, and machines, an economy that a few decades after the Civil War ranked first in the world. Mammoth corporations such as the Standard Oil trust were formed, and "captains of industry" like John D. Rockefeller and financiers like J. P. Morgan (see under Morgan, family) controlled huge resources.

In the latter part of the 19th cent. rapid industrialization had made the United States the world's largest, most productive, and most technically advanced nation, and the era saw the rise of the modern American city. These urban areas attracted huge numbers of people from foreign countries as well as rural America. The widespread use of steel and electricity allowed innovations that transformed the urban landscape. Electric lighting made cities viable at night as well as during the day. Electricity was also used to power streetcars, elevated railways, and subways. The growth of mass transit allowed people to live further away from work, and was therefore largely responsible for the demise of the "walking city." With the advent of skyscrapers, which utilized steel construction technology, cities were able to grow vertically as well as horizontally.

Into the "land of promise" poured new waves of immigrants; some acquired dazzling riches, but many others suffered in a competitive and unregulated economic age. Behind the facade of the "Gilded Age," with its aura of peace and general prosperity, a whole range of new problems was created, forcing varied groups to promulgate new solutions. In the 1870s the expanding Granger movement attempted to combat railroad and marketing abuses and to achieve an element of agrarian cooperation; this movement stimulated some regulation of utilities on the state level. Labor, too, began to combine against grueling factory conditions, but the opposition of business to unions was frequently overpowering, and the bulk of labor remained unorganized.

Some strike successes were won by the Knights of Labor, but this union, discredited by the Haymarket Square riot, was succeeded in prominence by the less divisive American Federation of Labor (see American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations). Massachusetts led the way (1874) with the first effective state legislation for an eight-hour day, but similar state and national legislation was sparse (see labor law), and the federal government descended harshly on labor in the bloody strike at Pullman, Ill., and in other disputes. Belief in laissez faire and the influence of big business in both national parties, especially in the Republican party, delayed any widespread reform.

The Presidents of the late 19th cent. were generally titular leaders of modest political distinction; however, they did institute a few reforms. Both Hayes and his successor, James A. Garfield, favored civil service reforms, and after Garfield's death Chester A. Arthur approved passage of a civil service act; thus the vast, troublesome presidential patronage system gave way to more regular, efficient administration. In 1884 a reform group, led by Carl Schurz, bolted from the Republicans and helped elect Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic President since before the Civil War. Under President Benjamin Harrison the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed (1890).

The attempt of the Greenback party to combine sponsorship of free coinage of silver (see free silver) and other aids to the debtor class with planks favorable to labor failed, but reform forces gathered strength, as witnessed by the rise of the Populist party. The reform movement was spurred by the economic panic of 1893, and in 1896 the Democrats nominated for President William Jennings Bryan, who had adopted the Populist platform. He orated eloquently for free silver, but was defeated by William McKinley, who gained ardent support from big business.

Expansionists and Progressives

By the 1890s a new wave of expansionist sentiment was affecting U.S. foreign policy. With the purchase of Alaska (1867) and the rapid settlement of the last Western territory, Oklahoma, American capital and attention were directed toward the Pacific and the Caribbean. The United States established commercial and then political hegemony in the Hawaiian Islands and annexed them in 1898. In that year expansionist energy found release in the Spanish-American War, which resulted in U.S. acquisition of Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands, and Guam, and in a U.S. quasi-protectorate over Cuba.

American ownership of the Philippines involved military subjugation of the people, who rose in revolt when they realized that they would not be granted their independence; the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1901) cost more American lives and dollars than the Spanish-American War. Widening its horizons, the United States formulated the Open Door policy (1900), which expressed its interest in China. Established as a world power with interests in two oceans, the United States intervened in the Panama revolution to facilitate construction of the Panama Canal; this was but one of its many involvements in Latin American affairs under Theodore Roosevelt and later Presidents.

By the time of Roosevelt's administration (1901-9), the progressive reform movement had taken definite shape in the country. Progressivism was partly a mode of thought, as witnessed by the progressive education program of John Dewey; as such it was a pragmatic attempt to mold modern institutions for the benefit of all. Progressives, too, were the muckrakers, who attacked abuse and waste in industry and in society. In its politics as shaped by R. M. La Follette and others, progressivism adopted many Populist planks but promoted them from a more urban and forward-looking viewpoint. Progressivism was dramatized by the magnetic Roosevelt, who denounced "malefactors of great wealth" and demanded a "square deal" for labor; however, in practice he was a rather cautious reformer. He did make some attacks on trusts, and he promoted regulation of interstate commerce as well as passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) and legislation for the conservation of natural resources.

Roosevelt's hand-picked successor, William H. Taft, continued some reforms but in his foreign policy and in the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act, passed in his administration, favored big business. Taft's conservatism antagonized Roosevelt, who split with the Republican party in 1912 and ran for the presidency on the ticket of the Progressive party (see also Insurgents). But the presidency was won by the Democratic reform candidate, Woodrow Wilson. Wilson's "New Freedom" brought many progressive ideas to legislative fruition. The Federal Reserve System and the Federal Trade Commission were established, and the Adamson Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act were passed. Perhaps more than on the national level, progressivism triumphed in the states in legislation beneficial to labor, in the furthering of education, and in the democratization of electoral procedures. Wilson did not radically alter the aggressive Caribbean policy of his predecessors; U.S. marines were sent to Nicaragua, and difficulties with Mexico were capped by the landing of U.S. forces in the city of Veracruz and by the campaign against Francisco (Pancho) Villa.

World War I

The nation's interest in world peace had already been expressed through participation in the Hague Conferences, and when World War I burst upon Europe, Wilson made efforts to keep the United States neutral; in 1916 he was reelected on a peace platform. However, American sympathies and interests were actively with the Allies (especially with Great Britain and France), and although Britain and Germany both violated American neutral rights on the seas, German submarine attacks constituted the more dramatic provocation. On Apr. 6, 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies and provided crucial manpower and supplies for the Allied victory. Wilson's Fourteen Points to insure peace and democracy captured the popular imagination of Europe and were a factor in Germany's decision to seek an armistice; however, at the Paris Peace Conference after the war, Wilson was thwarted from fully implementing his program.

In the United States, isolationist sentiment against participation in the League of Nations, an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles (see Versailles, Treaty of), was led by Senator William E. Borah and other "irreconcilables." The majority of Republican Senators, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, insisted upon amendments that would preserve U.S. sovereignty, and although Wilson fought for his original proposals, they were rejected. Isolationist sentiment prevailed during the 1920s, and while the United States played a major role in the naval conferences for disarmament and in the engineering of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war, its general lack of interest in international concerns was seen in its highly nationalistic economic policies, notably its insistence (later modified) on collecting the war debts of foreign countries and the passage of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act.

From Prosperity to Depression

The country voted for a return to "normalcy" when it elected Warren G. Harding President in 1920, but the ensuing period was a time of rapid change, and the old normalcy was not to be regained. The Republican governments of the decade, although basically committed to laissez faire, actively encouraged corporate mergers and subsidized aviation and the merchant marine. Harding's administration, marred by the Teapot Dome scandal, gave way on his death to the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, and the nation embarked on a spectacular industrial and financial boom. In the 1920s the nation became increasingly urban, and everyday life was transformed as the "consumer revolution" brought the spreading use of automobiles, telephones, radios, and other appliances. The pace of living quickened, and mores became less restrained, while fortunes were rapidly accumulated on the skyrocketing stock market, in real estate speculation, and elsewhere. To some it seemed a golden age. But agriculture was not prosperous, and industry and finance became dangerously overextended.

In 1929 there began the Great Depression, which reached worldwide proportions. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover proposed a moratorium on foreign debts, but this and other measures failed to prevent economic collapse. In the 1932 election Hoover was overwhelmingly defeated by the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. The new President immediately instituted his New Deal with vigorous measures. To meet the critical financial emergency he instituted a "bank holiday." Congress, called into special session, enacted a succession of laws, some of them to meet the economic crisis with relief measures, others to put into operation long-range social and economic reforms. Some of the most important agencies created were the National Recovery Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. This program was further broadened in later sessions with other agencies, notably the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Works Progress Administration (later the Work Projects Administration).

Laws also created a social security program. The program was dynamic and, in many areas, unprecedented. It created a vast machinery by which the state could promote economic recovery and social welfare. Opponents of these measures argued that they violated individual rights, besides being extravagant and wasteful. Adverse decisions on several of the measures by the U.S. Supreme Court tended to slow the pace of reform and caused Roosevelt to attempt unsuccessfully to revise the court. Although interest centered chiefly on domestic affairs during the 1930s, Roosevelt continued and expanded the policy of friendship toward the Latin American nations which Herbert Hoover had initiated; this full-blown "good-neighbor" policy proved generally fruitful for the United States (see Pan-Americanism). Roosevelt was reelected by an overwhelming majority in 1936 and won easily in 1940 even though he was breaking the no-third-term tradition.

World War II

The ominous situation abroad was chiefly responsible for Roosevelt's continuance at the national helm. By the late 1930s the Axis nations (Germany and Italy) in Europe as well as Japan in East Asia had already disrupted world peace. As wars began in China, Ethiopia, and Spain, the United States sought at first to bulwark its insular security by the Neutrality Act. As Axis aggression led to the outbreak of the European war in Sept., 1939, the United States still strove to stay out of it, despite increasing sympathy for the Allies. But after the fall of France in June, 1940, the support of the United States for beleaguered Britain became more overt. In Mar., 1941, lend-lease aid was extended to the British and, in November, to the Russians. The threat of war had already caused the adoption of selective service to build the armed strength of the nation. Hemisphere defense was enlarged, and the United States drew closer to Great Britain with the issuance of the Atlantic Charter.

In Asian affairs the Roosevelt government had vigorously protested Japan's career of conquest and its establishment of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." After the Japanese takeover of French Indochina (July, 1941), with its inherent threat to the Philippines, the U.S. government froze all Japanese assets in the United States. Diplomatic relations grew taut, but U.S.-Japanese discussions were still being carried on when, on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor. The United States promptly declared war, and four days later Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. (For an account of military and naval events, see World War II.)

The country efficiently mobilized its vast resources, transforming factories to war plants and building a mighty military force which included most able-bodied young men and many young women. The creation of a great number of government war agencies to control and coordinate materials, transportation, and manpower brought unprecedented government intervention into national life. Rationing, price controls, and other devices were instituted in an attempt to prevent serious inflation or dislocation in the civilian economy.

The war underscored the importance of U.S. resources and the prestige and power of the United States in world affairs. A series of important conferences outlined the policies for the war and the programs for the peace after victory; among these were the Moscow Conferences, the Casablanca Conference, the Cairo Conference, the Tehran Conference, and the Yalta Conference, at which Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin planned for postwar settlement. Roosevelt was also a key figure in the plans for the United Nations.

After Roosevelt's sudden death in Apr., 1945, Harry S. Truman became President. A month later the European war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Truman went to the Potsdam Conference (July-August), where various questions of the peacetime administration of Europe were settled, many on an ad interim basis, pending the conclusion of peace treaties. Before the war ended with the defeat of Japan, the United States developed and used a fateful and revolutionary weapon of war, the atomic bomb. The Japanese surrender, announced Aug. 14, 1945, and signed Sept. 2, brought the war to a close.

Peacetime readjustment was successfully effected. The government's "G.I. Bill" enabled many former servicemen to obtain free schooling, and millions of other veterans were absorbed by the economy, which boomed in fulfilling the demands for long-unobtainable consumer goods. The shortening of the postwar factory work week and the proportionate reduction of wages precipitated a rash of strikes, causing the government to pass the Taft-Hartley Labor Act (1947). Some inflation occurred by 1947 as wartime economic controls were abandoned. Congress passed a host of Truman's measures relating to minimum wages, public housing, farm surpluses, and credit regulation; thus was instituted acceptance of comprehensive government intervention in times of prosperity. The nation's support of Truman's policies was signified when it returned him to the presidency in 1948 in an upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey.

The United States in a Divided World

The most striking postwar development was America's new peacetime involvement in international affairs. U.S. support for the United Nations symbolized its desire for peace and order in international relations. However, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union worsened during the late 1940s. In addition, a serious human problem was presented by Europe, prostrated and near starvation after years of war. The Truman Doctrine attempted to thwart Soviet expansion in Europe; massive loans, culminating in the Marshall Plan, were vital in reviving European economies and thus in diminishing the appeal of Communism.

As the cold war intensified, the United States took steps (1948) to nullify the Soviet blockade of Berlin and played the leading role in forming a new alliance of Western nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the Korean War, U.S. forces played the chief part in combating the North Korean and Chinese attack on South Korea. Thus the United States cast off its traditional peacetime isolationism and accepted its position as a prime mover in world affairs.

International policy had significant repercussions at home. The fear of domestic Communism and subversion almost became a national obsession, culminating in such sensational events as the Alger Hiss case and the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (see Rosenberg Case). Security measures and loyalty checks in the government and elsewhere were tightened, alleged Communists were prosecuted under the Smith Act of 1940, and employees in varied fields were dismissed for questionable political affiliations, past or present. The most notorious prosecutor of alleged Communists was Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose extreme methods were later recognized as threats to freedom of speech and democratic principles.

Two decades of Democratic control of the White House came to an end with the presidential election of 1952, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was swept into office over the Democratic candidate, Adlai E. Stevenson. Although it did not try to roll back the social legislation passed by its Democratic predecessors, the Eisenhower administration was committed to a laissez-faire domestic policy. By the mid-1950s, America was in the midst of a great industrial boom, and stock prices were skyrocketing. In foreign affairs the Eisenhower administration was internationalist in outlook, although it sternly opposed Communist power and threatened "massive retaliation" for Communist aggression. Some antagonism came from the neutral nations of Asia and Africa, partly because of the U.S. association with former colonial powers and partly because U.S. foreign aid more often than not had the effect of strengthening ruling oligarchies abroad.

In the race for technological superiority the United States exploded (1952) the first hydrogen bomb, but was second to the USSR in launching (Jan. 31, 1958) an artificial satellite and in testing an intercontinental guidedmissile. However, spurred by Soviet advances, the United States made rapid progress in space exploration and missile research. In the crucial domestic issue of racial integration, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of decisions supported the efforts of African-American citizens to achieve full civil rights. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states of the Union. Despite hopes for "peaceful coexistence," negotiations with the USSR for nuclear disarmament failed to achieve accord, and Berlin remained a serious source of conflict.

In 1961, the older Eisenhower gave way to the youngest President ever elected, John F. Kennedy, who defeated Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon. President Kennedy called for "new frontiers" of American endeavor, but had difficulty securing Congressional support for his domestic programs (integration, tax reform, medical benefits for the aged). Kennedy's foreign policy combined such humanitarian innovations as the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress with the traditional opposition to Communist aggrandizement.

After breaking relations with Cuba, which, under Fidel Castro, had clearly moved within the Communist orbit, the United States supported (1961) an ill-fated invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro forces. In 1962, in reaction to the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, the United States blockaded Soviet military shipments to Cuba and demanded the dismantling of Soviet bases there. The two great powers seemed on the brink of war, but within a week the USSR acceded to U.S. demands. In the meantime, the United States achieved an important gain in space exploration with the orbital flight around the earth in a manned satellite by Col. John H. Glenn. The tensions of the cold war eased when, in 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union reached an accord on a limited ban of nuclear testing.

The Great Society and the Vietnam War

On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Tex. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, proclaimed a continuation of Kennedy's policies and was able to bring many Kennedy measures to legislative fruition. Significant progress toward racial equality was achieved with a momentous Civil Rights Act (1964), a Voting Rights Act (1965), and the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the poll tax. Other legislation, reflecting Johnson's declaration of a "war on poverty" and his stated aim of creating a "Great Society," included a comprehensive Economic Opportunity Act (1964) and bills providing for tax reduction, medical care for the aged, an increased minimum wage, urban rehabilitation, and aid to education.

Public approval was given in the landslide victory won by Johnson over his Republican opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater, in the 1964 presidential election. The victory also represented voter reaction against Senator Goldwater's aggressive views on foreign policy. Ironically, international problems dominated Johnson's second term, and Johnson himself pursued an aggressive course, dispatching (Apr., 1965) troops to the Dominican Republic during disorders there and escalating American participation in the Vietnam War. Authorization for the latter was claimed by Johnson to have been given (Aug., 1964) by Congress in the Tonkin Gulf resolution, which was passed after two U.S. destroyers were allegedly attacked by North Vietnamese PT boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The federal military budget soared, and inflation became a pressing problem.

The Vietnam War provoked increasing opposition at home, manifested in marches and demonstrations in which casualties were sometimes incurred and thousands of people were arrested. An impression of general lawlessness and domestic disintegration was heightened by serious race riots that erupted in cities across the nation, most devastatingly in the Watts district of Los Angeles (1965) and in Detroit and Newark (1967), and by various racial and political assassinations, notably those of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1968). Other manifestations of social upheaval were the increase of drug use, especially among youths, and the rising rate of crime, most noticeable in the cities. Opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War so eroded Johnson's popularity that he chose not to run again for President in 1968.

The Nixon Years

Johnson's position as leader of the Democratic party had been seriously challenged by Senator Eugene McCarthy, who ran as a peace candidate in the primary elections. Antiwar forces in the Democratic party received a setback with the assassination of Senator Kennedy, also a peace candidate, and the way was opened for the nomination of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, a supporter of Johnson's policies, as the Democratic candidate for President. Violence broke out during the Democratic national convention in Chicago when police and national guardsmen battled some 3,000 demonstrators in what a national investigating committee later characterized as "a police riot." The Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon, ran on a platform promising an end to the Vietnam War and stressing the need for domestic "law and order"; he won a narrow victory, receiving 43.4% of the popular vote to Humphrey's 42.7%. A third-party candidate, Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, carried five Southern states. The Congress remained Democratic.

Pronouncing the "Nixon doctrine"-that thenceforth other countries would have to carry more of the burden of fighting Communist domination, albeit with substantial American economic aid-Nixon began a slow withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. Criticism that he was not moving fast enough in ending the war increased and massive antiwar demonstrations continued, and when Nixon in the spring of 1970 ordered U.S. troops into neutral Cambodia to destroy Communist bases and supply routes there, a wave of demonstrations, some of them violent, swept American campuses. Four students were killed by national guardsmen at Kent State Univ. in Ohio, and 448 colleges and universities temporarily closed down. Antiwar activity declined, however, when American troops were removed from Cambodia after 60 days.

The institution of draft reform, the continued withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Vietnam, and a sharp decrease in U.S. casualties all contributed toward dampening antiwar sentiment and lessening the war as an issue of public debate. Racial flare-ups abated after the tumult of the 1960s (although the issue of the busing of children to achieve integration continued to arouse controversy). The growing movement of women demanding social, economic, and political equality with men also reflected the changing times. A dramatic milestone in the country's space program was reached in July, 1969, with the landing of two men on the moon, the first of several such manned flights. Significant unmanned probes of several of the planets followed, and in 1973 the first space station was orbited.

In domestic policy Nixon appeared to favor an end to the many reforms of the 1960s. He was accused by civil-rights proponents of wooing Southern support by seeking delays in the implementation of school integration. Such actions by his administration were overruled by the Supreme Court. Nixon twice attempted to appoint conservative Southern judges to the U.S. Supreme Court and was twice frustrated by the Senate, which rejected both nominations. In an attempt to control the spiraling inflation inherited from the previous administration, Nixon concentrated on reducing federal spending. He vetoed numerous appropriations bills passed by Congress, especially those in the social service and public works areas, although he continued to stress defense measures, such as the establishment of an antiballistic missiles (ABM) system, and foreign aid.

Federal budget cuts contributed to a general economic slowdown but failed to halt inflation, so that the country experienced the unprecedented misfortune of both rising prices and rising unemployment; the steady drain of gold reserves after almost three decades of enormous foreign aid programs, a new balance-of-trade deficit, and the instability of the dollar in the international market also affected the economy. In Aug., 1971, Nixon resorted to the freezing of prices, wages, and rents; these controls were continued under an ensuing, more flexible but comprehensive program known as Phase II. Another significant move was the devaluation of the dollar in Dec., 1971; it was further devalued in 1973 and again in 1974.

In keeping with his announced intention of moving the United States from an era of confrontation to one of negotiation, Nixon made a dramatic visit to the People's Republic of China in Feb., 1972, ending more than 20 years of hostility between the two countries and opening the way for a normalization of relations. A trip to Moscow followed in the spring, culminating in the signing of numerous agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union, the most important being two strategic arms limitations accords, reached after lengthy talks begun in 1969. The attainment of a degree of friendly relations with China and the USSR was especially surprising in view of the provocative actions that the United States was taking at that time against North Vietnam. Although U.S. ground troops were being steadily withdrawn from Vietnam, U.S. bombing activity was increasing. Finally Congress halted the bombing and limited Nixon's power to commit troops. A cease-fire in Vietnam was not achieved until Jan., 1973.

In the presidential election of 1972, the Democratic party reforms that increased the power of women and minority groups in the convention resulted in the nomination of Senator George S. McGovern for President. Senator McGovern called for an immediate end to the Vietnam War and for a drastic cut in defense spending and a guaranteed minimum income for all citizens. His candidacy was damaged by the necessity to replace his original choice for Vice President and by the continuing perception of McGovern as a radical. Nixon was reelected (Nov., 1972) in a landslide, losing only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

But Nixon's second term was marred, and finally destroyed, by the Watergate affair, which began when five men (two of whom were later discovered to be direct employees of Nixon's reelection committee) were arrested after breaking into the Democratic party's national headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C. Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, the first president in the history of the republic to be driven from office under the threat of impeachment.

Ford and Carter

Nixon was succeeded by Vice President Gerald R. Ford. (Nixon's first Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, had resigned in Oct., 1973, after being charged with income tax evasion.) Ford promised to continue Nixon's foreign policy, particularly the improvement of relations with China and the USSR (in his last days in office, Nixon had made trips to the Middle East and the Soviet Union to promote peace).

In domestic affairs, the United States was hurt by skyrocketing fuel prices due to an Arab oil embargo. The embargo was imposed (1973) in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War (see Arab-Israeli Wars). Ford attempted to formulate new policies to stem the ever-increasing inflation rate, which by late 1974 had reached the most severe levels since the period following World War II. He was also confronted with mounting unemployment and with the threat of a devastating world food crisis. Ford's popularity suffered a sharp setback when he granted Nixon a complete and unconditional pardon for any crimes that Nixon may have committed during his term as President. The public disapproval of this decision, along with the deteriorating economy, contributed to a sharp reversal in Republican fortunes in the elections of 1974.

In Dec., 1974, Nelson A. Rockefeller, a former governor of New York, was sworn in as Vice President following extensive hearings before Congressional committees. Thus, neither the President nor the Vice President had been popularly elected, both having been chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Ford's tenure as President was hindered by difficult economic times and an inability to work with the Democrat-controlled Congress. Ford vetoed dozens of bills, many of which were overridden by Congress to provide funding for social programs. Ford also lacked broad support within his own party, as former California governor (and future President) Ronald Reagan made a strong challenge for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Democratic contender in the 1976 presidential election, former Georgia governor James E. "Jimmy" Carter, ran a brilliant and tireless campaign based on populist appeals to honesty and morality. His position as a newcomer to national politics was considered an asset by an untrusting nation in the wake of the Watergate scandal. In spite of a late surge by Ford, Carter narrowly won the election. The day after being sworn in as President, Carter pardoned thousands of draft evaders from the Vietnam War. In domestic affairs, Carter focused a great deal of attention on energy issues, creating the Department of Energy in 1977 and insisting on the necessity of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuel consumption. However, nuclear energy in the United States suffered a severe setback in 1979 when an accident at the Three Mile Island power facility near Harrisburg, Penn. resulted in the partial meltdown of the reactor core.

States with large energy industries such as Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Colorado all benefited from extremely high energy prices throughout the 1970s. Alaska's economy also boomed as the Alaska pipeline began transporting oil in 1977. Soaring oil prices as well as increased foreign competition dealt a severe blow to American industry, especially heavy industries such as automobile and steel manufacturing located in America's Rust Belt. Central cities in the United States experienced great hardship in the 1960s and 70s. Rising crime rates and racial unrest during the 1960s accelerated the outmigration of people and businesses to the suburbs. By the late 1970s, many large cities had lost their middle class core populations and suffered severe budgetary problems.

Inflation continued to rise dramatically as it had during Ford's administration and eventually reached a 30-year high in 1979. Efforts to control inflation such as raising interest rates plunged the economy into recession. In 1977 Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaty and a year later Congress voted to turn over the canal to Panama in 1999. Carter's greatest achievement in foreign policy came in 1978 when he mediated unprecedented negotiations between Egypt and Israel at Camp David, Md. The talks led to the signing of a peace treaty (see Camp David accords) by Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in 1979. Also in that year the United States resumed official diplomatic relations with China and Carter entered into a second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) with the Soviet Union.

Carter's pledge to stand against nations that abused human rights resulted in a grain and high-technology embargo of the Soviet Union in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Carter also organized a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. His decision in 1979 to allow Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi, the deposed leader of Iran, to receive medical treatment in the United States inflamed the already passionate anti-American sentiment in that nation. On Nov. 4, 1979, a group of militants seized the U.S. embassy in Iran, taking 66 hostages. The Iran hostage crisis destroyed Carter's credibility as a leader and a failed rescue attempt (1980) that killed eight Americans only worsened the situation. (The hostages were only released on Jan. 20, 1981, the day Carter left office.) With the hostage crisis omnipresent in the media and the nation's economy sliding deeper into recession, Carter had little to run on in the 1980 presidential election. Republican nominee Ronald Reagan promised to restore American supremacy both politically and economically.

The Reagan Years

The nation enthusiastically responded to Ronald Reagan's neoconservative message as he soundly defeated Carter and third-party candidate John Anderson to become, at the age of 70, the oldest man to be elected president. Reagan's coattails proved to be long as the Republicans made large gains in the House of Representatives and won control of the Senate for the first time since 1954, ushering in a new wave of conservatism. His program of supply-side economics sought to increase economic growth through reduced taxes which would in turn create even greater tax revenue. Critics argued that his tax cuts only benefited corporations and wealthy individuals. Reagan drastically cut spending on social programs as part of his vow to balance the federal budget.

In labor disputes, Reagan was decidedly antiunion. This was never more evident than in 1981 when he fired 13,000 striking air traffic controllers. In Mar., 1981, Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt but fully recovered, dispelling doubts regarding his age and health. The U.S. economy continued to worsen; in 1983 the unemployment rate reached its highest point since the Great Depression at almost 11%. By the end of that year, however, oil prices began to drop, slowing the inflation rate and helping the economy to begin a recovery. Reagan's deregulaton of the banking, airline, and many other industries spurred enormous amounts of economic activity. In 1984 the unemployment rate fell and the dollar was strong in foreign markets. With the economy recovering, Reagan was unstoppable in the 1984 presidential election.

Democratic nominee Walter F. Mondale chose U.S. Representative Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate; she was the first woman to gain a major party's vice presidential nomination. Reagan scored an overwhelming victory, carrying 49 states and winning a record 525 electoral votes. Economic recovery did not last, however; while Reagan was cutting government funding for social programs the defense budget skyrocketed to levels not seen since World War II. The federal budget deficit also soared and in 1987, Reagan submitted the first trillion-dollar budget to Congress. In addition, the deregulated economy proved extremely volatile; financial scandals were prevalent and the trade imbalance grew. Finally in 1987 the stock market crashed, falling a record 508 points in a single day.

Reagan's foreign policy was aggressively anti-Communist as he discarded the policy of détente employed by Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He revived Cold War rhetoric, referring to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire" and used increased defense spending to enlarge the U.S. nuclear arsenal and fund the Strategic Defense Initiative, a plan popularly known as "Star Wars." In 1981, Reagan imposed sanctions against Poland after the establishment of a military government in that country. Reagan also sought aid for the Contras-counterrevolutionaries seeking to overthrow the Marxist-oriented Sandanista government in Nicaragua. At the same time the United States was secretly mining Nicaraguan harbors.

In 1983 241 U.S. marines stationed in Beirut, Lebanon as part of a UN peacekeeping force were killed by terrorists driving a truck laden with explosives in a suicide mission. Later that year Reagan ordered the invasion of the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada; the action was roundly criticized by the world community, but succeeded in toppling the pro-Cuban regime. In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killing the entire seven-person crew, including six astronauts and a civilian schoolteacher. Reagan's aggressive policies in the Middle East worsened already bad relations with Arab nations; he ordered (1986) air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack in West Berlin that killed two American servicemen.

Although the president had vowed never to negotiate with terrorists, members of his administration did just that in the Iran-contra affair. Against the wishes of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, Reagan officials arranged the illegal sale of arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages in the Middle East. The profits from the sales were then diverted to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Reagan improved his image before he left office, however, by agreeing to a series of arms reduction talks initiated by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan was also able leave a powerful legacy by appointing three conservative Supreme Court justices, including Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the high court.

Bush, Clinton, and Bush

Reagan had groomed his Vice President, George H. W. Bush, to succeed him. The presidential election of 1988 was characterized by negative campaigning, low voter turnout, and a general disapproval of both candidates. The mudslinging especially hurt the Democratic nominee, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, who rapidly lost his lead in the polls and eventually lost by a substantial margin. Bush vowed a continuation of Reagan's policies and in foreign affairs he was as aggressive as his predecessor. In 1989, after a U.S.-backed coup failed to oust Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, Bush ordered the invasion of Panama by U.S. troops. Noriega was eventually captured in early 1990 and sent to Miami, Fla. to stand trial for drug trafficking (see Panama).

Bush's major military action, however, was the Persian Gulf War. After Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, Bush announced the commencement of Operation Desert Shield, which included a naval and air blockade and the steady deployment of U.S. military forces to Saudi Arabia. In November the United Nations Security Council approved the use of all necessary force to remove Iraq from Kuwait and set Jan. 15, 1991, as the deadline for Iraq to withdraw. A few days before the deadline Congress narrowly approved the use of force against Iraq. By this time the United States had amassed a force of over 500,000 military personnel as well as thousands of tanks, airplanes, and personnel carriers. Less than one day after the deadline, the U.S.-led coalition began Operation Desert Storm, beginning with massive air attacks on Baghdad. Iraqi troops were devastated by continual air and naval bombardment, to the point that it took only 100 hours for coalition ground forces to recapture Kuwait. On Feb. 27, with the Iraqi army routed, Bush declared a cease-fire.

The quick, decisive U.S. victory, combined with an extremely small number of American casualties, gave President Bush the highest public approval rating in history. Mounting domestic problems, however, made his popularity short-lived. When Bush took office, he announced a plan to bail out the savings and loan industry, which had collapsed after deregulation during the Reagan administration. In 1996 it was determined that the savings and loan crisis had cost the U.S. government some $124 billion.

The United States went through a transitional period during the 1980s and early 90s, economically, demographically, and politically. The severe decline of traditional manufacturing which began in the 1970s forced a large-scale shift of the economy to services and other sectors. States with large service, trade, and high-technology industries (such as many Sun Belt states) grew in population and thrived economically. Meanwhile, states heavily dependent on manufacturing, including much of the Midwest, suffered severe unemployment and outmigration. Midwestern states grew less than 5% during the 1980s while Sun Belt states grew between 15% and 50%.

In addition, the end of the Cold War, precipitated by the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of Soviet Communism, resulted in a reduction of the U.S. armed forces as well as the opening of new markets in an increasingly global economy. In Apr., 1992, after the severe police beating of an African American, one of the worst race riots in recent U.S. history erupted in Los Angeles, killing 58, injuring thousands, and causing approximately $1 billion in damage. Smaller disturbances broke out in many U.S. cities. After the Persian Gulf War the nation turned its attention to the domestic problems of recession and high unemployment. Bush's inability to institute a program for economic recovery made him vulnerable in the 1992 presidential election to the Democratic nominee, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton.

Clinton won the election, gaining 43% of the popular vote and 370 electoral votes. Incumbent Bush won 38% of the popular vote and 168 electoral votes. Although independent candidate H. Ross Perot did not win a single electoral vote, he made a strong showing with 19% of the popular vote, after a populist campaign in which he vowed to eliminate the $3.5 trillion federal deficit. Clinton, generally considered a political moderate, was particularly successful in appealing to voters (especially in the Midwest and West) who had previously abandoned the Democratic party to vote for Reagan. Bush, for his part, was unable to convince voters that he could transform his success in international affairs into domestic recovery. One of his last actions as president was to send (Dec., 1992) U.S. troops to Somalia as part of a multinational peacekeeping force administering famine relief.

The economy gradually improved during Clinton's first year in office, and this, along with a tax increase and spending cuts, caused some easing of the budget deficit. The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1992 and designed to make its participants more competitive in the world marketplace, was ratified in 1993 and took effect Jan. 1, 1994.

During his first two years in office, Clinton withdrew U.S. troops from Somalia after they had suffered casualties in an ill-defined mission; he also sent troops to Haiti to help in reestablishing democratic rule there. The president proposed a major overhaul of the way American health care is financed, but it died in Congress. Clinton's problems with Congress were exacerbated in 1994 after the Republicans won control of both the Senate and the House and attempted, largely unsuccessfully, to enact a strongly conservative legislative program, dubbed the "Contract with America." There were prolonged stalemates as the president and Congress clashed over the federal budget; in Apr., 1996, a fiscal 1995 budget was agreed upon after seven months of stopgap spending measures and temporary government shutdowns.

In Apr., 1995, in the worst act of terrorism ever on American soil, a bomb was exploded at the federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla., killing 169 people. Late in 1995, the antagonists in the Yugoslavian civil war (see Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia) accepted a U.S.-brokered peace plan, which U.S. troops were sent to help monitor. U.S. efforts also contributed to Arab-Israeli acceptance of agreements to establish limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza.

By 1996, President Clinton had improved his standing in the polls by confronting House Republicans over the federal budget, and he subsequently adopted a number of Republican proposals, such as welfare reform, as his own, while opposing the more conservative aspects of those proposals. Clinton won his party's renomination unopposed and then handily defeated Republican Bob Dole and Reform party candidate Ross Perot in the November election.

As his second term began, Clinton's foes in and out of Congress pursued investigation of Whitewater and other alleged improprieties or abuses by the president. By late 1997 independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr had been given information that led to the Lewinsky scandal, which burst on the national scene in early 1998. Battle lines formed and remained firm through Clinton's impeachment (Oct., 1998), trial (Jan., 1999), and acquittal (Feb., 1999), with a core of conservative Republicans on one side and almost all Democrats on the other. The American people seemed to regard the impeachment as largely partisan in intent. Lying behind their attitude, however, was probably the sustained economic boom, a period of record stock-market levels, relatively low unemployment, the reduction of the federal debt, and other signs of well-being (although critics noted that the disparity between America's rich and poor was now greater than ever). This, combined with the afterglow of "victory" in the cold war, continued through the end of the 1990s.

In foreign affairs, the United States (as the only true superpower) enjoyed unprecendented international influence in the late 1990s, and in some areas it was able to use this influence to accomplish much. There was steady, if sometimes fitful, progress toward peace in the Middle East, and George Mitchell, a U.S. envoy, brokered what many hoped was a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, America had little influence on Russian policy in Chechnya, and it remained locked in a contest of wills with Iraq's President Saddam Hussein nine years after the end of the Persian Gulf War. The reluctance of the Congress to pay the country's UN dues nearly led to the embarrassment of the loss of the American General Assembly vote in 1999 even as Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed a desire for greater American involvement in the organization.

Meanwhile, in Kosovo the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, led by the United States, was unable to prevent a Yugoslav campaign against Kosovar Albanians but ultimately forced the former Yugoslavia to cede contral of the province; U.S. and other troops were sent into Kosovo as peacekeepers. That conflict showed that the United States was again reluctant to commit military forces, such as its army, that were likely to suffer significant casualties, although it would use its airpower, where its great technological advantages enabled it strike with less risk to its forces.

Negotiations in the Middle East, which continued in 2000, broke down, and there was renewed violence in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank late in the year. The Clinton administration worked to restart the negotiations, but the issues proved difficult to resolve. In the United States, the NASDAQ Internet and technology stock bubble, which had begun its rise in 1999, completely deflated in the second half of 2000, as the so-called new economy associated with the Internet proved to be subject to the rules of the old economy. Signs of a contracting economy also appeared by year's end.

The George W. Bush Presidency, 9/11, and Iraq

The 2000 presidential election, in which the American public generally appeared uninspired by the either major-party candidate (Vice President Al Gore and the Republican governor of Texas, George W. Bush) ended amid confusion and contention not seen since the Hayes-Tilden election in 1876. On election night, the television networks called and then retracted the winner of Florida twice, first projecting Gore the winner there, then projecting Bush the winner there and in the race at large. The issue of who would win Florida and its electoral votes became the issue of who would win the presidency, and the determination of the election dragged on for weeks as Florida's votes were recounted. Gore, who trailed by several hundred votes (out of 6 million) in Florida but led by a few hundred thousand nationally, sought a manual recount of strongly Democratic counties in Florida, and the issue ended up being fought in the courts and in the media. Ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court called a halt to the process, although its split decision along ideological lines was regarded by many as tarnishing the court. Florida's electoral votes, as certified by the state's Republican officials, were won by Bush, who secured a total of 271 electoral votes (one more than needed) and 48% of the popular vote (Gore had 49% of the popular vote). Bush thus became the first person since Benjamin Harrison in 1888 to win the presidency without achieving a plurality in the popular vote.

The slowing economy entered a recession in Mar., 2001, and unemployment rose, leading to continued interest rate reductions by the Federal Reserve Board. The Bush administration moved quickly to win Congressional approval of its tax-cut program, providing it with an early legislative victory, but other proposed legislation moved more slowly. The resignation of Senator Jeffords of Vermont from the Republican party cost it control of the Senate, a setback due in part to administration pressure on him to adhere to the party line. Internationally, the United States experienced some friction with its allies, who were unhappy with the Bush administration's desire to abandon both the Kyoto Protocal (designed to fight global warming) and the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (in order to proceed with developing a ballistic missile defense system). Relations with China were briefly tense in Apr., 2001, after a Chinese fighter and U.S. surveillance plane collided in mid-air, killing the Chinese pilot.

The politics and concerns of the first eight months of 2001 abruptly became secondary on Sept. 11, when terrorists hijacked four planes, crashing two into the World Trade Center, which was destroyed, and one into the Pentagon; the fourth crashed near Shanksville, Pa. Some 3,000 persons were killed or missing as a result of the attacks. Insisting that no distinction would be made between terrorists and those who harbored them, Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government turn over Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born Islamic militant whose Al Qaeda group was behind the attacks. The U.S. government sought to build an international coalition against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and, more broadly, against terrorism, working to influence other nations to cut off sources of financial support for terrorists.

In October, air strikes and then ground raids were launched against Afghanistan by the United States, with British aid. Oman, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan permitted the use of their airspace and of bases within their borders for various operations. The United States also provided support for opposition forces in Afghanistan, and by December the Taliban government had been ousted and its and Al Qaeda's fighters largely had been routed. Bin Laden, however, remained uncaptured, and a force of U.S. troops was based in Afghanistan to search for him and to help with mopping-up operations.

The terrorist attacks stunned Americans and amplified the effects of the recession in the fall. Events had a severe impact on the travel industry, particularly the airlines, whose flights were temporarily halted; the airlines subsequently suffered a significant decrease in passengers. Congress passed several bills designed to counter the economic effects of the attacks, including a $15 billion aid and loan package for the airline industry. A new crisis developed in October, when cases of anthrax and anthrax exposure resulted from spores that had been mailed to media and government offices in bioterror attacks.

Although consumer spending and the stock market rebounded by the end of the year from their low levels after September 11, unemployment reached 5.8% in Dec., 2001. Nonetheless, the economy was recovering, albeit slowly, aided in part by increased federal spending. In early 2002 the Bush administration announced plans for a significant military buildup; that and the 2001 tax cuts were expected to result in budget deficits in 2002-4. Prompted by a number of prominent corporate scandals involving fraudulent or questionable accounting practices, some of which led to corporate bankruptcies, Congress passed legislation that overhauled securities and corporate laws in July, 2002.

The fighting in Afghanistan continued, with U.S. forces there devoted mainly to mopping up remnants of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. U.S. troops were also based in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to provide support for the forces in Afghanistan. In the Philippines, U.S. troops provided support and assistance to Philippine forces fighting guerrillas in the Sulu Archipelago that had been linked to Al Qaeda, and they also trained Georgian and Yemeni forces as part of the war on terrorism.

During 2002 the Bush administration became increasingly concerned by the alleged Iraqi development and possession of weapons of mass destruction, and was more forceful in its denunciations of Iraq for resisting UN arms inspections. In March, Arab nations publicly opposed possible U.S. military operations against Iraq, but U.S. officials continued to call for the removal of Saddam Hussein. President Bush called on the United Nations to act forcefully against Iraq or risk becoming "irrelevant." In November the Security Council passed a resolution offering Iraq a "final opportunity" to cooperate on arms inspections, this time under strict guidelines, and inspections resumed late in the month, although not with full Iraqi cooperation. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress voted to authorize the use of the military force against Iraq, and the United States continued to build up its forces in the Middle East.

The November election resulted in unexpected, if small, gains for the Republicans, giving them control of both houses of Congress. After the election, Congress voted to establish a new Department of Homeland Security, effective Mar., 2003. The department regrouped most of the disparate agencies responsible for domestic security under one cabinet-level official; the resulting government reorganization was the largest since the Department of Defense was created in the late 1940s.

Dec., 2002, saw the negotiation of a free-trade agreement with Chile (signed in June, 2003), regarded by many as the first step in the expansion of NAFTA to include all the countries of the Americas. President Bush ordered the deployment of a ballistic missile defense system, to be effective in 2004; the system would be designed to prevent so-called rogue missile attacks. In advance of this move the United States had withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia in June. North Korea, often described as one of the nations most likely to launch a rogue attack, had admitted in October that it had a program for developing nuclear weapons, and the United States and other nations responded by ending fuel shipments and reducing food aid. In the subsequent weeks North Korea engaged in a series of well-publicized moves to enable it to resume the development of nuclear weapons, including withdrawing from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The United States, which had first responded by refusing to negotiate in any way with North Korea, adopted a somewhat less confrontational approach in 2003.

President Bush continued to press for Iraqi disarmament in 2003, and expressed impatience with what his administration regarded as the lack of Iraqi compliance. In Feb, 2003, however, the nation's attention was pulled away from the growing tension over Iraq by the breakup of the space shuttle Columbia as it returned to earth. Seven astronauts were killed in this second shuttle mishap, and focus was once again directed toward the issues of the safety of the space shuttle and the dynamics of the decision-making process at NASA.

Despite vocal opposition to military action from many nations, including sometimes rancorous objections from France, Germany, and Russia, the United States and Great Britain pressed forward in early 2003 with military preparations in areas near Iraq. Although Turkey, which the allies hoped to use as a base for opening a northern front in Iraq, refused to allow use of its territory as a staging area, the bulk of the forces were nonetheless in place by March. After failing to win the explicit UN Security Council approval desired by Britain (because the British public were otherwise largely opposed to war), President Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on March 17th, and two days later the war began with an airstrike against Hussein and the Iraqi leadership. Ground forces invaded the following day, and by mid-April the allies were largely in control of the major Iraqi cities and had turned their attention to the rebuilding of Iraq and the establishment of a new Iraqi government. No weapons of mass destruction, however, were found by allied forces during the months after the war, and sporadic guerrilla attacks on the occupying forces occurred during the same time period, mainly in Sunni-dominated central Iraq.

The cost of the military campaign as well as of the ongoing U.S. occupation in Iraq substantially increased what already had been expected to be a record-breaking U.S. deficit in 2003 to around $374 billion. The size of the deficit, the unknown ultimate cost of the war, and the continued weak U.S. economy (the unemployment rate rose to 6.4% in June despite some improvement in other areas) were important factors that led to the scaling back of a tax cut, proposed by President Bush, by more than half to $350 billion.

In Aug., 2003, a massive electrical blackout affected the NE United States. Much of New York and portions of Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and neighboring Ontario, Canada, lost power, in many cases for a couple days. The widespread failure appeared to be due in part to strains placed on the transmission system, its safeguards, and its operators by the increased interconnectedness of electrical generation and transmission facilities and the longer-distance transmission of electricity. An investigation into the event, however, laid the primary blame on the Ohio utility where it began, both for inadequate system maintenance and for failing to take preventive measures when the crisis began.

The economy improved in the latter half of the 2003. Although the unemployment rate inched below 6% and job growth was modest, overall economic growth was robust, particularly in the last quarter. A major Medicare overhaul was enacted and signed in December, creating a prescription drug benefit for the first time. The same month the Central American Free Trade Agreement was finalized by the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and in early 2004, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic agreed to become parties to the accord. The United States also reached free-trade agreements with Australia and Morocco.

U.S. weapons inspectors reported in Jan., 2004, that they had failed to find any evidence that Iraq had possessed biological or chemical weapons stockpiles prior to the U.S. invasion. The assertion that such stockpiles existed was a primary justification for the invasion, and the report led to pressure for an investigation of U.S. intelligence prior to the war. In February, President Bush appointed a bipartisan commission to review both U.S. intelligence failures in Iraq and other issues relating to foreign intelligence; the commission's 2005 report criticized intelligence agencies for failing to challenge the conventional wisdom about Iraq's weapon systems, and called for changes in how U.S. intelligence gathering is organized and managed. The Senate's intelligence committee, reviewing the situation separately, concluded in its 2004 report that much of the CIA's information on and assessment of Iraq prior to the war was faulty.

Also in February, U.S., French, and Canadian forces were sent into Haiti to preserve order. Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had resigned under U.S.-French pressure after rebel forces had swept through most of the country and threatened to enter the capital. U.S. forces withdrew from Haiti in June when Brazil assumed command of a UN peacekeeping force there.

By March, John Kerry had all but secured the Democrat nomination for president. With both major party nominees clear, the focus of the political campaigns quickly shifted to the November election. Both Bush and Kerry had elected not to accept government funding, enabling them each to raise record amounts of campaign funding, and the post-primary advertising campaign began early. In July, Kerry chose North Carolina senator John Edwards, who had opposed him in the primaries, as his running mate.

U.S. forces engaged in intense fighting in Iraq in Apr., 2004, as they attempted to remove Sunni insurgents from the town of Falluja. The battling there was the fiercest since the end of the invasion, and ultimately U.S. forces broke off without clearing the fighters from the city, a goal that was not achieved until after similar fighting in November. Guerrilla attacks by Sunni insurgents continued throughout the year. Also in April a radical cleric attempted to spark a Shiite uprising, and there was unrest and fighting in a number of other Iraqi cities. By mid-April the Shiite militia was in control only in the region around An Najaf, but the militia did not abandon its hold there until after intense battling in August. At the end of June, Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, turned over sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government. Nonetheless, the unrest called into question the degree to which Iraq had been pacified, and the 160,000 U.S.-led troops still in Iraq were, for the time being, the true guarantor of Iraqi security. Meanwhile, the prestige of the U.S. military had been damaged by revelations, in May, that it had abused Iraqis held in the Abu Ghraib prison during 2003-4.

In July, 2004, the U.S. commission investigating the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, criticized especially U.S. intelligence agencies for failings that contributed to the success of the attacks, and called for a major reorganization of those agencies, leading to the passage of legislation late in the year. In the following months the country's focus turned largely toward the November presidential election, as the campaigns of President Bush and Senator Kerry and their surrogates escalated their often sharp political attacks. In a country divided over the threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq, over the state of the economy and the state of the nation's values, election spending reached a new peak despite recent campaign financing limitations, and fueled a divisive and sometimes bitter mood. Ultimately, the president appeared to benefit from a slowly recovering economy and the desire of many voters for continuity in leadership while the nation was at war. Amid greatly increased voter turnout, Bush secured a clear majority of the popular vote, in sharp contrast to the 2000 election that first made him president. Republicans also increased their margins of control in both houses of Congress, largely through victories in the more conservative South.

The very active 2005 hurricane season saw several significant storms make landfall on the U.S. coast. In August, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi and SE Louisiana coasts, flooded much of New Orleans for several weeks, and caused extensive destruction inland in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. The following month, Hurricane Rita caused devastation along the SW Louisiana coast and widespread destruction in inland Louisiana and SE Texas.

Katrina displaced many Louisiana residents, some permanently, to other parts of the state and other states, particularly Texas. Some 200,000 persons were left at least temporarily unemployed, reversing job gains that had been made in the preceding months. The storm had a noticeable effect on the economy, driving up the already higher prices of gasoline, heating oil, and natural gas (as a result of well and refinery damage) to levels not seen before, and causing inflation to rise and industrial output to drop by amounts not seen in more than two decades.

The striking ineffectiveness of federal, state, and local government in responding to Hurricane Katrina, particularly in flooded New Orleans but also in other areas affected by the storm, raised questions about the ability of the country to respond to major disasters of any kind. President Bush-and state and local officials-were criticized for responding, at least initially, inadequately to Katrina, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency in particular seemed overwhelmed by the disaster's scale and incapable of managing the federal response in subsequent weeks. Many Americans wondered if the lessons of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the changes in the federal government that followed had resulted in real improvements or if those very changes and their emphasis on terror attacks had hindered the ability of the United States to respond to natural disasters.

The perceived failings in the federal response to Katrina seemed to catalyze public dissatisfaction with President Bush, as Americans became increasingly unsettled by the ongoing war in Iraq, the state of the U.S. economy, and other issues less than a year after Bush had been solidly reelected. Congress, meanwhile, passed a $52 billion emergency spending bill to deal with the effects of Katrina, but did not make any significant spending cuts or reductions in tax cuts to compensate for the additional outlays until Feb., 2006, when Congress passed a bill cutting almost $40 billion from a variety of government benefit programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans.

Internationally and domestically, the United States government was the subject of condemnation from some quarters for aspects of its conduct of the "war on terror" in the second half of 2005. In Aug., 2005, Amnesty International (AI) denounced the United States for maintaining secret, underground CIA prisons abroad. Subsequent news reporting indicated that there were prisons in eight nations in E Europe and Asia, and in December the United States acknowledged that the International Committee of the Red Cross had not been given access to all its detention facilities. (A year after the AI report the U.S. for the first time acknowledged that the CIA had maintained a group of secret prisons.) A Swiss investigator for the Council of Europe indicated (Dec., 2005) that reports that European nations and the United States had been involved in the abduction and extrajudicial transfer of individuals to other nations were credible, and he accused (Jan., 2006) the nations of "outsourcing" torture. In Jan., 2006, the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the U.S. government of a deliberate policy of mistreating terror suspects. The U.S. policy toward terror suspects was subsequently denounced in 2006 by the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Committee on Torture, and the European Parliament.

In Dec., 2005, the National Security Agency was revealed to be wiretapping some international communications originating in the United States without obtaining the legally required warrants. The practice had begun in 2002, at the president's order. The administration justified it by asserting that the president's powers to defend the United States under the Constitution were not subject to Congressional legislation and that the legislation authorizing the president to respond to the Sept., 2001, terror attacks implicitly also authorized the wiretapping. Many politicians, former government officials, and legal scholars, however, criticized the practice as illegal or unconstitutional. The revelations and assertions did not derail the renewal of most nonpermanent parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, a sometimes criticized national security law originally enacted in 2001 after the Sept. 11th attacks; with only minor adjustments most of the law was made permanent in Mar., 2006. President Bush subsequently agreed (July, 2006) to congressional legislation that would authorize the administration's domestic eavesdropping program while placing a few limitations on it, but House and Senate Republicans disagreed over aspects of the proposed law, and it was not passed before the November elections. Meanwhile, in August, a federal judge declared the program illegal, a decision that the Justice Dept. appealed. In Jan., 2007, however, the Bush administration indicated the eavesdropping program would be overseen by the secret federal court responsible for issuing warrants for foreign intelligence surveillance.

The administation's position on the president's powers had been implicitly criticized by the Supreme Court when it ruled in June, 2006, that military commissions that had not been authorized by Congress could not be used to try the foreign terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay. The Court also ruled that the Geneva Conventions applied to the suspects, who had been taken prisoner in Afghanistan; that ruling was a defeat for the administration, which had also come under increasing foreign government criticism for holding the suspects without trying them. As a result of the ruling, the Bush administration won the passage (Sept., 2006) of legislation that established special military tribunals to try foreign terror suspects, such as those held at Guantánamo, but the law was criticized by human rights advocates and others for stripping suspects of habeas corpus and other rights long enshrined as part of American law.

Illegal immigration also became a contentious political topic in 2006. While the House of Representatives, dominated by conservative Republicans, sought to require greater government efforts to restrict illegal immigration and greater penalities for illegally entering the United States, the Bush administration and the Senate emphasized developing a guest-worker program and allowing some long-term illegal immigrants the opportunity to become citizens as well as increasing border security. The differences between the houses of Congresses stalled legislative action on illegal immigration while maintaining it as a political issue as the 2006 congressional elections approached; ultimately the only legislation passed on the issue was a Oct., 2006, law that called for adding 700 mi (1,100 km) of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. A new attempt at passing an immigration overhaul in 2007 died in Congress in June.

In the 2006 congressional elections the Republicans suffered significant reversals, losing control of both the Senate and the House, although the some of the seats lost in the Senate were the result of very narrow Democratic wins. Congressional corruption and sex scandals during 2006 appeared to loom large with many voters, as did the ongoing lack of significant progress in the fighting in Iraq. The president had hoped to benefit from improvement in the economy-the national unemployment rate had gradually dropped during 2005-6 and high oil prices earlier in the year had fallen-but some polls indicated the economy was a significant issue mainly in areas where voters felt that they had not benefited from the broad national trends.

Iraq, where 3,000 U.S. military personnel had died by the end of 2006, remained the nation's focus into early 2007. The congressionally commissioned Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker and including prominent Republicans and Democrats, recommended a number of changes in U.S. efforts relating to Iraq, including greatly diminishing the role of U.S. combat forces and replacing them with Iraqi troops, making diplomatic overtures to Syria and Iran to gain their support for a resolution of the fighting in Iraq, and attempting to bring peace to Iraq as part of a broader Middle East peace initiative. Military aspects of the plan were received with skepticism by U.S. military experts, but the president ultimately choose to increase U.S. forces in Iraq temporarily, beginning in Jan., 2007, an attempt to control sectarian strife and increase security, principally in Baghdad. The president's decision was not well received in Congress, both by the newly empowered Democrats and some Republicans, but congressional opponents of the course pursued by the administration in Iraq lacked both the numbers and the unanimity necessary to confront the president effectively, as was demonstrated when a war funding bill was passed (May, 2007) without any binding troop withdrawal deadlines. By the mid-2008, when the "surge" in U.S. forces in Iraq had ended, it, along with a change in counterinsurgency tactics and other factors, appeared to have been successful in reducing violence and helping to establish control over some parts of Iraq.

The second half of 2007 saw the economy become a significant concern as problematic mortgage lending involving adjustable rate mortgages and, often, borrowers of marginal creditworthiness roiled U.S. and international financial markets and companies as a result of the securitization of mortgages, which both had hidden the risk involved in such mortgages and distributed that risk among many financial companies and investors. Concerns over creditworthiness issues led to a contraction in mortgage lending and housing construction and also led to some difficulties in commercial lendings. By the end of 2007, it was clear that a housing bubble that had contributed significantly to economic growth since 2001 had burst, and many banks and financial firms suffered significant losses as a result. That, dramatic increases in crude oil prices, and other worsening economic conditions contributed to the beginning of a recession by year's end.

In early 2008 the economic slowdown led to job losses and increased unemployment, while credit uncertainties contributed to the near-collapse of a major Wall Street investment firm; mortgage deliquencies also rose. The deteriorating economy led to the passage of a federal economic stimulus package, government measures designed to increase the availability of federally insured mortgages, lower interest rates, and moves by the Federal Reserve Board to assure the availability of credit and shore up the financial markets. In July, 2008, the president also signed a housing bill designed to help shore up the U.S. corporations that guarantee most American mortgages and also to provide mortgage relief to some homeowners, but ongoing problems with mortgage defaults led to increasing losses at those corporations and resulted in a government takeover of the institutions in September.

The deterioration of financial and economic conditions in the country and the world accelerated in mid-September, forcing the government and the Federal Reserve to intervene still more actively. The government also took over insurance giant AIG, whose financial health been undermined by credit default swaps it had sold (credit default swaps are contracts that pay, in return for a fee, compensation if a bond, loan, or the like goes into default). The nation also experienced its largest bank failure ever as the FDIC took over and sold Washington Mutual. By the end of the month the four remaining major Wall Street investment banks had disappeared through bankruptcy, merger, or conversion to bank holding companies, and banks had become unusually reluctant to lend. The economic crisis, which was the most severe since the early 1980s, also became increasingly international in scope, with particularly dramatic consequences in such diverse nations as Iceland, Russia, and Argentina.

Congress passed a $700 billion financial institution rescue package in early October, giving the Treasury secretary broad leeway in using government funds to restore financial stability, but the unsettling economic situation led stock prices to erode daily in early October, compounding the nation's financial difficulties and anxieties. The government subsequently moved to recapitalize the banking system in an attempt to restart lending, and the Federal Reserve began buying commercial paper (short-term debt with which companies finance their day-to-day operations), becoming the lender of last resort not just for the banking system but the economy at large. The Federal Reserve also eventually lowered its federal funds interest rate target to below 0.25%.

The effects of housing price drops, mortgage difficulties, the credit crunch, and other problems meanwhile slowed consumer spending, which contributed to a decrease in the GDP in the third and fourth quarters of 2008. By October unemployment had increased to 6.5% (and rose to 7.2% by the end of the year), and the economy had become a major factor in the presidential election campaign. Democrat Barack Obama handily defeated Republican John McCain in Nov., 2008, to become the first African American to be elected to the presidency, and Democrats also increased their majorities in the U.S. Congress. Although the inauguration of President Obama in Jan., 2009, was acknowledged by most Americans as a historic watershed, the economic difficulties and international conflicts confronting the United States were sobering and had all but forced Obama to name his cabinet and highest advisers as quickly as possible once he became president-elect.

The economy continued in recession in 2009, with unemployment reaching 9.8% in September. The Obama administration continued and expanded the previous administration's antirecessionary measures, winning passage of a $787 billion stimulus package and offering aid especially to the U.S. financial industry; the automobile industry, with Chrysler and General Motors forced into bankruptcy and reorganized by July, 2009; and (to a more limited extent) to homeowners. Those and other measures were expected to result in a series of budget deficits that, as a percentage of GDP, were the largest since World War II. By mid-2010 congressional anxiety about voter reaction to the deficit made it difficult to pass additional jobs measures.

In October, when the administration announced the 2009 deficit was $1.4 trillion (roughly triple that of the year before), it appeared clear that a depression had been avoided, and subsequently there were signs of a likely end to the recession, with the economy reported to have expanded moderately in the third quarter and significantly in the last quarter of 2009. Housing, however, remained in the doldrums at best at year's end and into 2010, and the unemployment rate increased to 10% in the last months of 2009 and diminished only a little by mid-2010. Also in 2009, Obama announced that U.S. forces in Afghanistan would increase in 2010 by 30,000 combat and training troops in an escalation designed to counteract Taliban gains.

In Mar., 2010, the Obama administration secured passage of health insurance legislation that was intended to increase the number of Americans covered by such insurance. The most significant piece of social welfare legislation since the 1960s, it called for a combination of expanding Medicaid, providing subsidies to low- and middle-income families, and tax increases on high-income families in addition to other measures to achieve that goal. Passage of the legislation proved the most difficult and divisive achievement of Obama's presidency to date, with Republicans in Congress strongly opposed and many conservatives participating in public protests against it. Russia and the United States signed the New START treaty in Apr., 2010. Replacing the START I nuclear disarmament treaty that had expired at the end of 2009, it established lower levels for deployed nuclear warheads. In August, U.S. combat operations in Iraq officially ended.

In July, 2010, Congress enacted legislation overhauling the U.S. financial regulatory system; the law gave expanded tools to regulators to respond to crises similar to the those that occurred in 2008 and also provided for increased consumer protections. The second half of the year saw the Federal Reserve Board resume its measures to stimulate the economy, which remained in a lackluster recovery with persistent high unemployment, a situation that did not show much improvement even by mid-2011. Those economic conditions coupled with an invigorated conservative movement that at times was unhappy even with conservative Republicans contributed to a Republican resurgence in the 2010 midterm elections. The party won control of the U.S. House of Representatives and also made gains in the U.S. Senate and many statehouses. Obama nonetheless won passage of additional legislation, with varying degrees of Republican support, in the post-election lame-duck session of Congress.

In Jan., 2011, a Democratic congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, and 13 others were injured and 6 persons killed in a shooting in Tucson, Ariz. Although the attack on Giffords and those at her constituent event did not appear politically motivated, it focused attention on the rancor that had marked the election year of 2010 and, for a time at least, subdued the political rhetoric and the nation's mood. Weeks later, however, partisan disagreements over cutting the budget threatened to stall the budget's passage and force a federal government shutdown, but that was avoided (Apr., 2011) with a last minute agreement on $38.5 billion in reductions. The normally routine approval of an increase in the national debt ceiling was delayed in mid-2011 by renewed partisan conflicts over the budget and debt; those conflicts subsequently affected bills concerned with disaster aid, jobs creation, and other issues. The last U.S. forces in Iraq were withdrawn in Dec., 2011, ending all U.S. military operations there.

Related Articles

There are a great number of articles on Americans of major importance, on the principal government agencies and departments, and on numerous topics of American history, e.g., Whiskey Rebellion, Ohio Company, Independent Treasury System, and Santa Fe Trail. There are also articles on more than 2,000 cities, towns, and villages in the United States. The state articles supply bibliographies for state history. Aspects of American culture are discussed under American architecture, American art, American literature, and jazz. Many general articles (e.g., slavery; diplomatic service) have useful material and bibliographies relating to the United States.


The writings on American history are voluminous. Useful bibliographies are F. Freidel and R. K. Showman, ed., Harvard Guide to American History (2 vol., rev. ed. 1974) and C. Fitzgerald, ed., American History: A Bibliographic Review (4 vol., 1986-89).

Major Historians and Works

Some of the classic works on American history are those of Henry Adams, C. M. Andrews, George Bancroft, Charles A. Beard, Carl L. Becker, G. L. Beer, Alfred Chandler, John Fiske, Eugene Genovese, Herbert Gutman, J. B. McMaster, H. L. Osgood, Francis Parkman, Vernon Louis Parrington, Ulrich B. Phillips, James Ford Rhodes, and Frederick Jackson Turner.

Other works of significance are by Bernard Bailyn, S. F. Bemis, Ray Allan Billington, Daniel Boorstin, Bruce Catton, H. S. Commager, David Donald, D. S. Freeman, L. H. Gipson, Richard Hofstadter, John F. Jameson, Perry Miller, S. E. Morison, R. B. Morris, Allan Nevins, A. M. Schlesinger, A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., T. J. Wertenbaker, Gordon Wood, and C. Vann Woodward.

Standard reference works are R. B. Morris and H. S. Commager, ed., Encyclopedia of American History (rev. ed. 1970); H. S. Commager, ed., Documents of American History (8th ed. 1968); and the cooperative "New American Nation Series" (ed. by H. S. Commager and R. B. Morris, 1954-). Another cooperative work is the "History of the South" series (ed. by W. H. Stephenson and E. M. Coulter, 10 vol., 1947-67). See also U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States (latest ed.) and Susan B. Carter et al., ed., Historical Statistics of the United States (2006).

Brief general histories include D. J. Boorstin, The Americans (3 vol., 1958-73); H. J. Carman, H. C. Syrett, and Bernard Wishy, A History of the American People (3d ed., 2 vol., 1967); S. E. Morison, The Oxford History of the American People (3 vol., 1972); S. E. Morison and H. S. Commager, The Growth of the American Republic (7th ed. 1980); J. A. Garraty, A Short History of the American Nation (5th ed. 1988); P. Johnson, A History of the American People (1998); W. A. McDougall, Freedom Just around the Corner: A New American History: 1585-1828 (2004) and Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877 (2008); D. Reynolds, America, Empire of Liberty (2009).

Specialized Topics in American History

Specialized topics are treated in such studies as M. Curti, The Growth of American Thought (3d ed. 1964); A. Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (1966); R. A. Billington and J. B. Hedges, Westward Expansion (3d ed. 1967); M. J. Frisch, ed., American Political Thought (1971); S. E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the United States (1972); R. E. Spiller et al., ed., Literary History of the United States (4th ed. rev., 2 vol., 1974); J. S. Adams, Contemporary Metropolitan America (4 vol., 1976); J. Garreau, The Nine Nations of North America (1981) and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991); P. O. Muller, Contemporary Suburban America (1981); M. E. Armbruster, The Presidents of the United States and Their Administrations from Washington to Reagan (7th rev. ed. 1982); J. P. Greene, Encyclopedia of American Political History (3 vol., 1984); K. T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier (1985); J. Agnew, The United States in the World (1987); E. S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation (1987), Historical Atlas of Religion in America (rev. ed. 2001), and with L. Schmidt, A Religious History of America (rev. ed. 2002); W. H. Frey and A. Speare, Regional and Metropolitan Growth and Decline in the United States (1988); J. Schlesinger, America at Century's End (1989); A. King, The New American Political System (1990); A. H. Kelly et al., The American Constitution (7th ed. 1991); C. Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 (1991); J. J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2000); N. F. Cott, No Small Courage: A History of Women in the United States (2001); A. Fairclough, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890-2000 (2001); A. Taylor, American Colonies (2001); L. M. Friedman, Law in America (2002) and History of American Law (3d ed. 2005); I. Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (2003); S. Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy (2005); D. W. Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (2007); D. S. Reynolds, Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson (2008); G. C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776 (2008); J. Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (2009); G. S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (2009); H. W. Brands, American Colossus (2010); D. Lacorne, Religion in America: A Political History (2011); D. K. Richter, Before the Revolution: America's Ancient Pasts (2011).

Geographical Studies

Geographical works include N. M. Fenneman, Physiography of Western United States (1931) and Physiography of Eastern United States (1938); R. H. Brown, Historical Geography of the United States (1948); National Geographic Society, Atlas of North America: Space Age Portrait of a Continent (1985); David Clark, Post-Industrial America: A Geographical Perspective (1985); D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America (1986); J. P. Allen and E. J. Turner, We the People: An Atlas of America's Ethnic Diversity (1987); P. L. Knox et al., The United States: A Contemporary Human Geography (1988); S. S. Birdsall and J. W. Florin, Regional Landscapes of the United States and Canada (4th rev. ed. 1992); Wilbur Zelinsky, The Cultural Geography of the United States (rev. ed. 1992); T. L. McKnight, Regional Geography of the United States and Canada (1992).

Psychoanalysis came to North America in two major waves, the first one following Freud's visit in 1909, and the second one following the Nazi takeover in Germany and Austria. Each wave stimulated the exploration of psychoanalysis' scientific and curative potentials while encouraging popularizations by the American public. However, this dual, though separate, reception engendered ambiguities and misunderstandings, and built up unwarranted expectations that led to inevitable disappointments.

American physicians had been seeking to cure neurasthenia, which, already in 1869, George M. Beard (1840-1883) had called "the American disease" arising from so-called "civilized morality"—hidden conflicts due to hypocrisy. According to Beard, upwardly mobile citizens professing continence, religious purity, and even married celibacy, were having illicit affairs with "loose" women, which often created "mental problems."

Around the turn of the century, American neurologists such as Morton Prince (1854-1929), James Jackson Putnam (1842-1918) and S. E. Jelliffe (1866-1945) had been investigating the "French school" of Charcot, Bernheim, and Janet, and were practicing suggestion and (occasionally) hypnosis in order to cure these neuroses. So were psychologists, among them Stanley Hall (1844-1924), William James (1842-1910), and Boris Sidis (1867-1933). When they read that Freud's patients by talking about previously repressed fantasies had lost their hysterical symptoms, and that this had happened by bringing forth unconscious memories, they wanted to learn about his method, and about the relation between his patients' symptoms and sexual repression.

Consequently, philosophers, psychologists, and the educated public were as interested in what Freud had to say as were American psychiatrists—who were caring for psychotic patients in institutions and did not know how to cure neuroses—and clergymen who were no longer able to help people by instilling a fear of God.

For these reasons, Freud's visit to Clark University attracted diverse listeners: the psychologists William James and Edward Bradford Titchener, the anthropologist Franz Boas, the revolutionary anarchist Emma Goldman, and many Protestant clergymen, psychiatrists, and neurologists—among them Abraham Arden Brill (1874-1948), Adolph Meyer (1866-1950), and James Jackson Putnam. Freud's lectures, which for the first time synthesized his discoveries, turned out to be tailor-made for this audience. He spoke extemporaneously. He stressed his hopes for the scientific exploration of the laws governing the unconscious; the liberating benefits psychoanalysis would bring to individuals and humanity; the role of sublimation, of trauma and catharsis; and the efficacy and benefits of psychoanalytic intervention. The American press gave him wide, even sensationalist, coverage, so that he was met with an enthusiasm usually accorded entertainers and charismatic heads of state. Then, general physicians and neurologists wanted to understand more about the influence of the unconscious on illness; feminists and other radicals foresaw the end of sexual and social repression; and mind healers perceived answers to troubling questions. To them all, psychoanalysis promised to resolve theoretical dilemmas, while offering a method to help ailing, malingering patients: it became a pivot for disparate intellectual endeavors and disciplines, aims, and interests.

Since the analysis of dreams caught the imagination of the larger American public, psychoanalysis started being cast as the new road to happiness. Broad applications ensued, not only by doctors and clergymen but by social workers, experts in child rearing, and in criminology. And zealous charlatans called themselves psychoanalysts.

Freud was dismayed by these facile applications that bypassed the laborious efforts required to reach the deepest unconscious of patients. As he stated in "On the Question of Lay Analysis" (1926a), "Americans came too easily by truths others had struggled to discover . . . and were too easily satisfied with superficial appearances."

However, Freud kept in touch with a number of Americans. On November 9, 1909, for instance, Putnam wrote: "Your visit to America was of deep significance to me, and I now work and read with constantly growing interest on your lines." Less than a month later, he informed Freud that "the real psychoanalysis begins where the primary 'confessional' ends." Freud urged his American correspondents to organize and to affiliate with the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA)—which had been launched to facilitate communication among followers wanting to exchange scientific information.

By 1911, twelve persons, mostly physicians, set up the American Psychoanalytic Association (APA). In the same year, fifteen physicians, under the leadership of A. A. Brill, established the New York Psychoanalytic Society (NYPS). By 1914, they founded the Boston Psychoanalytic Society, appointing Putnam as president, and soon formed groups in the Washington-Baltimore area and in Chicago. But despite these organizational setups, the first wave of American Freudians was too geographically and/or intellectually dispersed to make many scientific contributions, and thus crested after a few years.

By then, psychoanalysis was expected to explain nearly every individual and social phenomenon in the culture at large: the American propensity to overgeneralize was casting psychoanalysis as a cure-all. As Nathan Hale summarized, "between 1915 and 1918 psychoanalysis received three-fifths as much attention as birth control, more attention than divorce, and nearly four times more than mental hygiene. . . . The unconscious had become a Darwinian Titan and dream analysis the road to its taming" (Hale, 1971, p. 397). Proselytizing practitioners bragged to journalists of miracle cures, and reporters wedded clichés to exaggerations and heightened enthusiasm.

During these years, Freud wrote to Putnam about the impending splits with Alfred Adler and Carl Jung. But he did not yet realize that the American ambiance would engender other sorts of splits. Since the American groups, mostly, were started by self-selected and self-trained doctors, they differentiated themselves—professionally—from the growing numbers of social workers, clergymen and charlatans who were also doing "psychoanalysis." This disjuncture between psychoanalysis' public acclaim and its (flagging) clinical success was unique to North America and, ultimately, created a storm within the movement. By 1924, due to a mixture of professional responsibility and self-interest, and to desperation, the APA voted to keep out all lay analysts. At the IPA meetings in Innsbruck, in 1927, twenty-eight papers were presented on the question of lay analysis. Wanting to distance themselves from "impostors," American Freudians remained adamant and insisted on breaking IPA rules against lay analysts by restricting access to physicians alone. They even referred to Freud as the "Pope in Vienna." Freud expressed his disagreement with the Americans in "On the Question on Lay Analysis" (1926a).

Nevertheless, American psychoanalysts realized that they were not keeping up with scientific advances and that they needed more training. Therefore they invited a number of Europeans as training analysts (including Freud, who refused for reasons of health). By 1930, they formed the Chicago Institute under the aegis of Franz Alexander (1891-1964), and in 1931, the New York Psychoanalytic Institute under the aegis of Sándor Radó (1890-1972). But the rift between European and American Freudians continued to widen over training lay analysts. In 1936, the APA declared that it would veto any resolution by the IPA addressing American issues, and by 1938 had set up its own criteria for "minimal training of physicians" at its affiliated institutes, spelled out proper conduct of members, and reaffirmed the ban against laymen. They also put the IPA on notice not to train Americans who had not already been "approved" by the APA.

In a way, Freud had described some of these dilemmas as arising from the fact that psychoanalysis was a social and intellectual movement, a clinical therapy, and a theory of mind. He maintained that these major thrusts were bound to come into conflict from time to time. But he could not foresee that the Nazis would come to power, that most of his disciples would move to America, and that World War II would nearly abolish psychoanalysis on the European continent.

America's second major wave of psychoanalysis arrived with theémigrés. From the start, Freud had referred to his disciples as pioneers into the workings of the unconscious. After the majority of these disciples arrived in the country of pioneers they, literally, were cast as pioneers for their cause.

At first, their reception was mixed. American psychoanalysts had sent affidavits, and Lawrence Kubie (1896-1973) had organized an extremely efficient Emergency Committee to help them get into the country. But members of the American Medical Association were afraid that the Europeans would compete for their jobs and patients. Legally, immigrants had to become American citizens before practicing medicine in all but five states; and they had to pass medical boards before becoming psychoanalysts. They also had to prove that they would be self-supporting within a year before they entered the country, and they were branded as Jews. They already had to adapt to their delegitimation as psychoanalysts and human beings, to overcome the shock of brutal ostracism. Now, they had to learn English in order to establish themselves in their (still) struggling profession. Manyémigré Freudians worked in hospitals. There, they could demonstrate the efficacy of the "talking cure" to colleagues. By 1942, every medical student learned about the unconscious factors that might influence their patients' behavior. Many of these students later became psychoanalysts.

Under the circumstances, the organizational feuds receded. Theémigrés became a resource for American colleagues. They offered training analyses and held the most prestigious positions in the new institutes that, mostly under their leadership, were springing up around the country. The former disagreements were not settled, but Freud's death in September 1939 and the war overshadowed IPA concerns. What would have happened to psychoanalysis had most of its proponents not come to America after the Nazis took power (a much smaller contingent went to South America and England) is a moot question.

In North America, the organizational repercussions of the split between medical and lay analysts at first determined who among theémigrés would be allowed into the APA and its affiliates, but later on this differentiation led to the formation of "deviant" associations. Still, some prominent psychologists who had been close to Freud, such as Ernst Kris (1906-1957), Siegfried Bernfeld (1892-1953), Erik Erikson (1902-1994), Otto Fenichel (1897-1946), and Theodore Reik (1888-1970), were accepted as "honorary members." But Reik, for instance, did not appreciate this distinction and, by 1948, started his own society—to train psychologists in psychoanalysis. His graduates, in turn, taught others. Similar situations arose in cities throughout the country, especially on the two coasts. Already in 1941, Karen Horney (1895-1952) had left the New York Psychoanalytic Institute (NYPI) after a heated controversy over theoretical priorities which would determine, also, what type of psychoanalysis candidates were going to learn and then to practice. Basically, she argued that her colleagues' ego-oriented psychoanalysis was culture-bound rather than universal, and that they ought to address a patient's present circumstances in order to understand his or her past rather than to begin by eliciting insights into this past.

By then, Karen Horney's books, (1937, 1939), as well as Erich Fromm's (1942) were introducing psychoanalytic concepts to a broad public—which was not all that interested in the theoretical disputes among psychoanalysts, but found their writings more accessible than the works of the "classical Freudians." In fact, Horney and Fromm were addressing social issues, and, though far from simplistic, were appealing to the American habit of believing in quick fixes, and to the native optimism about the malleability of human nature. But they were only the forerunners of what would become some of the "cultural" or "applied" psychoanalyses and psychotherapies which subsequently flooded the country. In other words, Freud's influence on the culture—whether appreciated or rejected—from then on became ubiquitous.

Still, the theories based on Freud's postulates in The Ego and the Id (1923b) would dominate the profession for a long time. The division into id, ego, and superego as structural components of psychic life converged with the American scientific bent, and with the language of medicine.

But other proliferations of psychoanalysis occurred via the social sciences. For instance, anthropologists such as Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Ruth Benedict, and psychoanalysts such as Sándor Radó and Abram Kardiner, in the Columbia University Institute for Psychoanalytic Training, were doing research on tribal societies; the Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons postulated psychoanalysis as a mainstay of his social system, to incorporate the unconscious elements of human motivation into social institutions; and the political scientist Harold Laswell explored the behavior and ambitions of political figures in terms of their psychic make-up.

Like Freud, theémigrés were steeped in the classics. They were products of the Enlightenment, and they foresaw that the future of civilization would be dominated by discoveries science alone could further. But they also kept reading classical and contemporary literature in order to enrich their theories. And they explained human psychology—the typical patterns of mind being formed in response to early experiences that later guide behavior—via literature. They continued to attempt analyzing literary works in relation to the personalities of their authors, and to be particularly interested in having creative individuals on their couches. Therefore, they cooperated with literary scholars such as Lionel Trilling, and art critics such as Ernst Hans Gombrich and Clement Greenberg who, themselves, enriched the studies of literature, art, and criticism by responding to the challenges posed by psychoanalysis. They warmly welcomed psychoanalysts, and arranged meetings and symposia with them, thereby furthering the acceptance of psychoanalytic insights by the intelligentsia.

Because Freud's European disciples had come to psychoanalysis not only from medicine but from art (Erik Erikson and Ernst Kris), education (Anna Freud [1895-1982]), philosophy (Robert Waelder [1900-1967]), and literature (Henry Lowenfeld [1900-1985]), they were attuned to the preoccupations of American intellectuals. And the self-assurance they had gained from their work with Freud, as well as their range, helped propel them into the maelstrom of American intellectual life.

Heinz Hartmann, for instance, a central figure among the so-called "scientific ego psychologists," already in Vienna, had addressed questions of adaptation. Now, he investigated individuals' relations with and adaptation to reality as indicators of mental health which, he held, was emotional and biological. He maintained that "instinct" has a double meaning: the genetic relations between animal instinct and human drive, and between animal instinct and human ego-function. This brought him back to addressing cultural issues. Together with Ernst Kris and Rudolph Loewenstein (1946), he wrote the definitive paper summarizing the clinical theories Freudians had derived from their (recent) America-based research. These findings were syntheses on a highly abstract, theoretical plane. The general and cultural questions they were addressing, along with the clinical ones, would set the Freudians' extensive research agendas for the coming years. This acceptance in America, at least in part, is what made their work so appealing after the war, when they reconvened on the European continent, and why their theories were referred to as "American" psychoanalysis.

In 1947, David M. Levy, in New Fields of Psychoanalysis, delineated the astounding influence psychoanalysis had gained in every sphere. He noted that psychoanalytic terminology in child guidance, such as maternal overprotection, maternal rejection, etc., had become ubiquitous; that psychoanalysis could predict criminals' recidivism; and he outlined collaborations among psychoanalysts, social workers, educators, industrial and military psychiatrists. Clearly, Freud's disciples had become pillars of the American establishment. Inevitably, prestige and research moneys accrued to the profession.

Ego-psychology remained the leading theory well into the 1970s. By then, however, the members of groups outside the APA were increasingly discontent: they resented being peripheral. Their own successes with patients, and their work in hospitals, went nearly unrecognized outside the country. At home, they were analyzing psychologists and social workers who, sooner or later, formed associations and networks—which gave them a certain amount of clout. Belonging to the IPA would allow them, too, to mix and exchange information with European and Latin American colleagues, and to set up collaborative research projects. In 1985, this situation came to a head in a lawsuit by non-medical American Freudians—some of whose institutes have since then been accepted by the IPA and the APA.

Altogether, by the time Philip Reiff published The Triumph of the Therapeutic (1966), America had become the therapeutic society par excellence. But the patients who expected psychoanalysts to cure their neurotic symptoms, or their general malaise, were very different from Freud's repressed, hysterical ones. And the analyses by his many descendants were initiating more and more discussions about changing clinical pictures and problems, and possible solutions to them. Gradually, the clinical techniques based on the "structural theory" (the division of the personality into id, ego, and superego) were being questioned, and no longer seemed to be as efficacious as they had been before. And many people argued that psychoanalysis took too long and was too expensive.

By 1971, Heinz Kohut (1913-1981), a member of both the APA and the IPA, had been dissatisfied enough to have explored, and then moved, Freud's theories of narcissism to the center. He had noted that children tend to make up for the "unavoidable shortcomings" of maternal care, and the concomitant primary narcissism, either by evolving a grandiose and exhibitionist self-image, or by creating an idealized parental image. As the gleam in the mother's eye mirrors the child's exhibitionist display, he found, the child's self-esteem and grandiosity became inflated. This necessitated, he said, more empathic and demanding interactions with patients, rather than the classical analyst's technique of abstinence. His so-called self-psychology, which focuses on the interactions between mother and child, became more integrated into the classical Freudians' practices. Soon thereafter object-relations theory (based primarily on the relationship between mother and infant), which originally had been advanced by Melanie Klein (1882-1960), in London, was being furthered by Otto Kernberg.

Whether or not these approaches were due to changing symptomatology alone, or to the fact that the acceptance of psychoanalysis itself had made promises for cures it could not achieve, is a debatable issue. Certainly, contact with psychoanalysts from Europe and South America, and changing cultural trends, were playing their part as well. (In academic circles, beginning in departments of English and French, Lacanian psychoanalysis made large inroads.) But psychoanalysts, themselves (Kurzweil, 1989, 1995) were both products and shapers of their culture. In sum, in the United States psychoanalysis has evolved in line with cultural prerogatives and advances in psychoanalytic knowledge. What aspects of psychoanalysis are being stressed or denied keeps changing, and its first and second major waves undoubtedly will be followed by others. On the one hand, Freudian ideas are permeating American society, which, in turn, influences the practice of psychoanalysis itself. On the other hand, there has been a proliferation of therapies. But the popularization has encouraged simplifications and quick modes of treatment at the expense of analyzing the unconscious. Thereby, what Freud called the "gold of psychoanalysis," that is, the mining of the unconscious, has been lost. However, many of his contributions live on in the culture at large, and are applied by many social scientists, especially psychologists.


Hale, Nathan G., Jr. (1971). Freud and the Americans: The beginnings of psychoanalysis in the United States, 1976-1917. New York: Oxford University Press.

Horney, Karen. (1939). New ways in psychoanalysis. New York: W. W. Norton.

Kurzweil, Edith. (1989). The Freudians: A comparative perspective. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

——. (1995). Freudians and feminists. Boulder, CO: Westview.


Dialing Code:

United States of America


The international dialing code for United States of America is:   1


United States


United States

CIA World Factbook:

United States

Click to enlarge flag of United States
Background:Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65), in which a northern Union of states defeated a secessionist Confederacy of 11 southern slave states, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, an economic downturn during which about a quarter of the labor force lost its jobs. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.
Map of United States
Location:North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico
Geographic coordinates:38 00 N, 97 00 W
Map references:North America
Area:total: 9,826,630 sq km
land: 9,161,923 sq km
water: 664,707 sq km
note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia
Area - comparative:about half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; more than twice the size of the European Union
Land boundaries:total: 12,034 km
border countries: Canada 8,893 km (including 2,477 km with Alaska), Mexico 3,141 km
note: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is leased by the US and is part of Cuba; the base boundary is 28 km
Coastline:19,924 km
Maritime claims:territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: not specified
Climate:mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains
Terrain:vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in east; rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska; rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii
Elevation extremes:lowest point: Death Valley -86 m
highest point: Mount McKinley 6,198 m
Natural resources:coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber
note: the US has the world's largest coal reserves with 491 billion short tons accounting for 27% of the world's total
Land use:arable land: 18.01%
permanent crops: 0.21%
other: 81.78% (2005)
Irrigated land:223,850 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:3,069 cu km (1985)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):total: 477 cu km/yr (13%/46%/41%)
per capita: 1,600 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:tsunamis; volcanoes; earthquake activity around Pacific Basin; hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts; tornadoes in the midwest and southeast; mud slides in California; forest fires in the west; flooding; permafrost in northern Alaska, a major impediment to development
Environment - current issues:air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and Canada; the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; limited natural fresh water resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; desertification
Environment - international agreements:party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Hazardous Wastes
Geography - note:world's third-largest country by size (after Russia and Canada) and by population (after China and India); Mt. McKinley is highest point in North America and Death Valley the lowest point on the continent
Population:307,212,123 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure:0-14 years: 20.2% (male 31,639,127/female 30,305,704)
15-64 years: 67% (male 102,665,043/female 103,129,321)
65 years and over: 12.8% (male 16,901,232/female 22,571,696) (2009 est.)
Median age:total: 36.7 years
male: 35.4 years
female: 38 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate:0.975% (2009 est.)
Birth rate:13.82 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate:8.27 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:4.31 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization:urban population: 82% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate:total: 6.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.55 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:total population: 78.11 years
male: 75.65 years
female: 80.69 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate:2.05 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:0.6% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:1.2 million (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:22,000 (2007 est.)
Nationality:noun: American(s)
adjective: American
Ethnic groups:white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate)
note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent (including persons of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin) living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.); about 15.1% of the total US population is Hispanic
Religions:Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)
Languages:English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census)
note: Hawaiian is an official language in the state of Hawaii
Literacy:definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):total: 16 years
male: 15 years
female: 16 years (2006)
Education expenditures:5.3% of GDP (2005)
Country name:conventional long form: United States of America
conventional short form: United States
abbreviation: US or USA
Government type:Constitution-based federal republic; strong democratic tradition
Capital:name: Washington, DC
geographic coordinates: 38 53 N, 77 02 W
time difference: UTC-5 (during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins second Sunday in March; ends first Sunday in November
note: the 50 United States cover six time zones
Administrative divisions:50 states and 1 district*; Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia*, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Dependent areas:American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Wake Island
note: from 18 July 1947 until 1 October 1994, the US administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; it entered into a political relationship with all four political units: the Northern Mariana Islands is a commonwealth in political union with the US (effective 3 November 1986); the Republic of the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 21 October 1986); the Federated States of Micronesia signed a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 3 November 1986); Palau concluded a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 1 October 1994)
Independence:4 July 1776 (from Great Britain)
National holiday:Independence Day, 4 July (1776)
Constitution:17 September 1787, effective 4 March 1789
Legal system:federal court system based on English common law; each state has its own unique legal system, of which all but one (Louisiana, which is still influenced by the Napoleonic Code) is based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:chief of state: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president with Senate approval
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by a college of representatives who are elected directly from each state; president and vice president serve four-year terms (eligible for a second term); election last held 4 November 2008 (next to be held on 6 November 2012)
election results: Barack H. OBAMA elected president; percent of popular vote - Barack H. OBAMA 52.4%, John MCCAIN 46.3%, other 1.3%;
Legislative branch:bicameral Congress consists of the Senate (100 seats, 2 members are elected from each state by popular vote to serve six-year terms; one-third are elected every two years) and the House of Representatives (435 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 4 November 2008 (next to be held November 2010); House of Representatives - last held 4 November 2008 (next to be held in November 2010)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Democratic Party 57, Republican Party 41, independent 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Democratic Party 257, Republican Party 178
Judicial branch:Supreme Court (nine justices; nominated by the president and confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate; appointed to serve for life); United States Courts of Appeal; United States District Courts; State and County Courts
Political parties and leaders:Democratic Party [Timothy KAINE]; Green Party; Libertarian Party [William (Bill) REDPATH]; Republican Party [Michael STEELE]
Political pressure groups and leaders:environmentalists; business groups; labor unions; churches; ethnic groups; political action committees or PAC; health groups; education groups; civic groups; youth groups; transportation groups; agricultural groups; veterans groups; women's groups; reform lobbies
International organization participation:ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), ANZUS, APEC, Arctic Council, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS (observer), CE (observer), CERN (observer), CP, EAPC, EBRD, FAO, G-20, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINUSTAH, NAFTA, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SECI (observer), SPC, UN, UN Security Council, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNITAR, UNMIL, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNTSO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Flag description:13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars; the 50 stars represent the 50 states, the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies; known as Old Glory; the design and colors have been the basis for a number of other flags, including Chile, Liberia, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico
Economy - overview:The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $48,000. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, required major shifts in national resources to the military. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage in the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, but had a small impact on overall GDP growth for the year. Soaring oil prices between 2005 and the first half of 2008 threatened inflation and unemployment, as higher gasoline prices ate into consumers' budgets. Imported oil accounts for about two-thirds of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups. The merchandise trade deficit reached a record $847 billion in 2007, but declined to $810 billion in 2008, as a depreciating exchange rate for the dollar against most major currencies discouraged US imports and made US exports more competitive abroad. The global economic downturn, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, investment bank failures, falling home prices, and tight credit pushed the United States into a recession by mid-2008. To help stabilize financial markets, the US Congress established a $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in October 2008. The government used some of these funds to purchase equity in US banks and other industrial corporations. In January 2009 the US Congress passed and President Barack OBAMA signed a bill providing an additional $787 billion fiscal stimulus - two-thirds on additional spending and one-third on tax cuts - to create jobs and to help the economy recover.
GDP (purchasing power parity):$14.29 trillion (2008 est.)
$14.11 trillion (2007)
$13.83 trillion (2006)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):$14.33 trillion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:1.3% (2008 est.)
2% (2007 est.)
2.8% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):$47,000 (2008 est.)
$46,800 (2007 est.)
$46,300 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:agriculture: 1.2%
industry: 19.6%
services: 79.2% (2008 est.)
Labor force:155.2 million (includes unemployed) (2008 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:farming, forestry, and fishing 0.6%, manufacturing, extraction, transportation, and crafts 22.6%, managerial, professional, and technical 35.5%, sales and office 24.8%, other services 16.5%
note: figures exclude the unemployed (2007)
Unemployment rate:7.2% (December 2008 est.)
Population below poverty line:12% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 30% (2007 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:45 (2007)
Investment (gross fixed):14.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget:revenues: $2.524 trillion
expenditures: $2.979 trillion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year:1 October - 30 September
Public debt:60.8% of GDP (2007 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):4.2% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:0.5% (31 March 2009)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:3.25% (31 March 2009)
Stock of money:$1.596 trillion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money:$8.154 trillion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:$14.15 trillion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares:$19.95 trillion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:wheat, corn, other grains, fruits, vegetables, cotton; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish; forest products
Industries:leading industrial power in the world, highly diversified and technologically advanced; petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, mining
Industrial production growth rate:0.2% (2008 est.)
Electricity - production:4.167 trillion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:3.892 trillion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports:20.14 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:51.4 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source:fossil fuel: 71.4%
hydro: 5.6%
nuclear: 20.7%
other: 2.3% (2001)
Oil - production:8.457 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - consumption:20.68 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - exports:1.165 million bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports:13.71 million bbl/day (2005)
Oil - proved reserves:20.97 billion bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas - production:545.9 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:652.9 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - exports:23.28 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - imports:130.3 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:5.977 trillion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance:-$568.8 billion (2008 est.)
Exports:$1.377 trillion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:agricultural products (soybeans, fruit, corn) 9.2%, industrial supplies (organic chemicals) 26.8%, capital goods (transistors, aircraft, motor vehicle parts, computers, telecommunications equipment) 49.0%, consumer goods (automobiles, medicines) 15.0% (2003)
Exports - partners:Canada 21.4%, Mexico 11.7%, China 5.6%, Japan 5.4%, UK 4.3%, Germany 4.3% (2007)
Imports:$2.19 trillion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:agricultural products 4.9%, industrial supplies 32.9% (crude oil 8.2%), capital goods 30.4% (computers, telecommunications equipment, motor vehicle parts, office machines, electric power machinery), consumer goods 31.8% (automobiles, clothing, medicines, furniture, toys) (2003)
Imports - partners:China 16.9%, Canada 15.7%, Mexico 10.6%, Japan 7.4%, Germany 4.8% (2007)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:$70.57 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external:$12.25 trillion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:$2.22 trillion (2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:$2.751 trillion (2008 est.)
Currency (code):US dollar (USD)
Currency code:USD
Exchange rates:British pounds per US dollar: 0.5302 (2008), 0.4993 (2007), 0.5418 (2006), 0.5493 (2005), 0.5462 (2004)
Canadian dollars per US dollar: 1.0364 (2008), 1.0724 (2007), 1.1334 (2006), 1.2118 (2005), 1.3010 (2004)
Chinese yuan per US dollar: 6.9385 (2008), 7.61 (2007), 7.97 (2006), 8.1943 (2005), 8.2768 (2004)
euros per US dollar: 0.6827 (2008), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004)
Japanese yen per US dollar: 103.58 (2008), 117.99 (2007), 116.18 (2006) 110.22 (2005), 108.19 (2004)
Telephones - main lines in use:163.2 million (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:255 million (2007)
Telephone system:general assessment: a large, technologically advanced, multipurpose communications system
domestic: a large system of fiber-optic cable, microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and domestic satellites carries every form of telephone traffic; a rapidly growing cellular system carries mobile telephone traffic throughout the country
international: country code - 1; multiple ocean cable systems provide international connectivity; satellite earth stations - 61 Intelsat (45 Atlantic Ocean and 16 Pacific Ocean), 5 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region), and 4 Inmarsat (Pacific and Atlantic Ocean regions) (2000)
Radio broadcast stations:AM 4,789, FM 8,961, shortwave 19 (2006)
Radios:575 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:2,218 (2006)
Televisions:219 million (1997)
Internet country
Internet hosts:316 million (2008); note - the US Internet total host count includes the following top level domain host addresses: .us, .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, and .org
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):7,000 (2002 est.)
Internet users:223 million (2008)
Airports:14,951 (2008)
Airports - with paved runways:total: 5,146
over 3,047 m: 190
2,438 to 3,047 m: 227
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1,464
914 to 1,523 m: 2,307
under 914 m: 958 (2008)
Airports - with unpaved runways:total: 9,805
2,438 to 3,047 m: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 156
914 to 1,523 m: 1,734
under 914 m: 7,909 (2008)
Heliports:146 (2007)
Pipelines:petroleum products 244,620 km; natural gas 548,665 km (2006)
Railways:total: 226,612 km
standard gauge: 226,612 km 1.435-m gauge (2005)
Roadways:total: 6,465,799 km
paved: 4,209,835 km (includes 75,040 km of expressways)
unpaved: 2,255,964 km (2007)
Waterways:41,009 km (19,312 km used for commerce)
note: Saint Lawrence Seaway of 3,769 km, including the Saint Lawrence River of 3,058 km, shared with Canada (2008)
Merchant marine:total: 422
by type: barge carrier 6, bulk carrier 61, cargo 69, carrier 2, chemical tanker 22, container 81, passenger 19, passenger/cargo 59, petroleum tanker 53, refrigerated cargo 3, roll on/roll off 25, vehicle carrier 22
foreign-owned: 74 (Australia 1, Denmark 31, Germany 5, Japan 7, Malaysia 2, Netherlands 1, Norway 9, Singapore 12, Sweden 5, UK 1)
registered in other countries: 732 (Antigua and Barbuda 8, Australia 2, Bahamas 106, Bermuda 23, Cambodia 6, Canada 10, Cayman Islands 42, Comoros 2, Cyprus 5, Ecuador 1, Greece 8, Hong Kong 29, Ireland 2, Isle of Man 4, Italy 17, South Korea 7, Liberia 98, Luxembourg 4, Malta 23, Marshall Islands 123, Netherlands 14, Netherlands Antilles 1, Norway 8, Panama 126, Portugal 1, Puerto Rico 3, Russia 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 18, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 22, Trinidad and Tobago 1, Tuvalu 1, UK 12, Vanuatu 1, unknown 2) (2008)
Ports and terminals:Corpus Christi, Duluth, Hampton Roads, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Tampa, Texas City
Military branches:United States Armed Forces: US Army, US Navy (includes Marine Corps), US Air Force, US Coast Guard; note - Coast Guard administered in peacetime by the Department of Homeland Security, but in wartime reports to the Department of the Navy (2009)
Military service age and obligation:18 years of age (17 years of age with parental consent) for male and female voluntary service; maximum enlistment age 42 (Army), 27 (Air Force), 34 (Navy), 28 (Marines); service obligation 8 years, including 2-5 years active duty (Army), 2 years active (Navy), 4 years active (Air Force, Marines) (2008)
Manpower available for military service:males age 16-49: 72,715,332
females age 16-49: 71,638,785 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:males age 16-49: 59,764,677
females age 16-49: 59,437,663 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:male: 2,196,124
female: 2,085,085 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures:4.06% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues
Disputes - international:the U.S. has intensified domestic security measures and is collaborating closely with its neighbors, Canada and Mexico, to monitor and control legal and illegal personnel, transport, and commodities across the international borders; abundant rainfall in recent years along much of the Mexico-US border region has ameliorated periodically strained water-sharing arrangements; 1990 Maritime Boundary Agreement in the Bering Sea still awaits Russian Duma ratification; managed maritime boundary disputes with Canada at Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and around the disputed Machias Seal Island and North Rock; The Bahamas and US have not been able to agree on a maritime boundary; US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease; Haiti claims US-administered Navassa Island; US has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other states; Marshall Islands claims Wake Island; Tokelau included American Samoa's Swains Island among the islands listed in its 2006 draft constitution
Refugees and internally displaced persons:refugees (country of origin): the US admitted 62,643 refugees during FY04/05 including; 10,586 (Somalia); 8,549 (Laos); 6,666 (Russia); 6,479 (Cuba); 3,100 (Haiti); 2,136 (Iran) (2006)
Illicit drugs:world's largest consumer of cocaine (shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean), Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana; major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican methamphetamine; minor consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine; money-laundering center

The United States ranks as the world's fourth largest wine-producing nation after France, Italy, and Spain. U.S. Wine consumption has increased about 400 percent over the last 25 years. Even so, on a per capita basis, Americans consume only about one-seventh the wine that the French, Italians, or Portuguese do. In 1999, the United States ranked thirty-fourth in per capita consumption, but its large population allowed this country to finish third in total consumption. About 90 percent of U.S. Wines are produced in california which would rank California in fourth place if it were a nation. California's central valley provides over 70 percent of the state's wine, and although the quality of Central Valley wine is improving, most of it is still considered rather ordinary. On the other hand, most higher-quality U.S. Wine comes from California, although it's not the only state producing first-rate wine. washington is now viewed as being the second-largest producer of fine wine. Wine is now produced in all fifty states-that is to say that all fifty have at least one federally bonded winery. The resurgence in quality-wine production, which started in California in the mid-1960s (decades after prohibition almost decimated the wine industry), has triggered a similar rally in other parts of country. At this writing, there are over 2,200 wineries scattered throughout the nation. California has the most with over 900, but there are over 200 in washington, almost that many in oregon, over 160 in new york and more than 70 in both ohio and virginia. States like arizona, colorado, new mexico and texas are all finding ideal grape-growing locales where warm days and cool nights create just the right combination. In 1983, the United States implemented the american viticultural area (ava) system, designed to identify U.S. Wines in a fashion similar to France's appellation d'origine contrôlée for their wines. Unlike the French regulations, however, AVA rules (under the jurisdiction of tax and trade bureau previously batf) are extremely lax and must be strengthened before they become truly meaningful. There are many AVAs that do reflect a sense of quality because the winemakers in that area want it to be meaningful; unfortunately that isn't always true. Currently, there are about 150 AVAs throughout the United States. See also arizona, california, colorado, connecticut, idaho, indiana, kentucky, louisiana, massachusetts, maryland, michigan, missouri, new jersey, new mexico, new york, ohio, north carolina, oregon, pennsylvania, rhode island, texas, virginia and washington .

This entry treats Native American and European American contributions to parapsychology and the occult. See also related items onMexico, Central America,andSouth America.For the history of Spiritualism in America, see the entry onSpiritualism,where a summary of the subject will be found.

Native Americans

Among the various native races of the American continent, the supernatural has flourished as universally as in other parts of the world. The oldest writers (of European and Christian background) on Native Americans agreed that they practiced sorcery and the magic arts, and were quick to attribute their prowess to Satan. For example, the Rev. Peter Jones, writing as late as the first decade of the nineteenth century, stated: "I have sometimes been inclined to think that if witchcraft still exists in the world, it is to be found among the aborigines of America."

The early French settlers called the Nipissing Jongleurs because of the surprising expertness in magic of their medicine men. Some writers observed the use of hypnotic suggestion among the Menominee and Lakota (Sioux) about the middle of the last century, and it is generally admitted that this art, which is known to Americanists as orenda, was familiar among most Indian tribes, as James Mooney noted in his Ghost Dance Religion (1896). D. G. Brinton, alluding to Indian medicine men and their connection with the occult arts, observed: "They were also adept in tricks of sleight of hand, and had no mean acquaintance with what is called natural magic. They would allow themselves to be tied hand and foot with knots innumerable, and at a sign would shake them loose as so many wisps of straw; they would spit fire and swallow hot coals, pick glowing stones from the flames, walk with naked feet over live ashes, and plunge their arms to the shoulder in kettles of boiling water with apparent impunity.

"Nor was this all. With a skill not inferior to that of the jugglers of India, they could plunge knives into vital parts, vomit blood, or kill one another out and out to all appearances, and yet in a few minutes be as well as ever; they could set fire to articles of clothing and even houses, and by a touch of their magic restore them instantly as perfect as before. Says Father Bautista: 'They can make a stick look like a serpent, a mat like a centipede, and a piece of stone like a scorpion.' If it were not within our power to see most of these miracles performed any night in our great cities by a well-dressed professional, we should at once deny their possibility. As it is they astonish us but little.

"One of the most peculiar and characteristic exhibitions of their power, was to summon a spirit to answer inquiries concerning the future and the absent. A great similarity marked this proceeding in all northern tribes, from the Eskimos to the Mexicans. A circular or conical lodge of stout poles, four or eight in number, planted firmly in the ground was covered with skins or mats, a small aperture only being left for the seer to enter. Once in, he carefully closed the hole and commenced his incantations. Soon the lodge trembles, the strong poles shake and bend as with the united strength of a dozen men, and strange, unearthly sounds, now far aloft in the air, now deep in the ground, anon approaching near and nearer, reach the ears of the spectators.

"At length the priest announces that the spirit is present, and is prepared to answer questions. An indispensable preliminary to any inquiry is to insert a handful of tobacco, or a string of beads, or some such douceur under the skins, ostensibly for the behalf of the celestial visitor, who would seem not to be above earthly wants and vanities. The replies received, though occasionally singularly clear and correct, are usually of that profoundly ambiguous purport which leaves the anxious inquirer little wiser than he was before.

"For all this, ventriloquism, trickery, and shrewd knavery are sufficient explanations. Nor does it materially interfere with this view, that converted Indians, on whose veracity we can implicitly rely, have repeatedly averred that in performing this rite they themselves did not move the medicine lodge; for nothing is easier than in the state of nervous excitement they were then in to be self-deceived, as the now familiar phenomenon of table-turning illustrates.

"But there is something more than these vulgar arts now and then to be perceived. There are statements supported by unquestionable testimony, which ought not to be passed over in silence, and yet I cannot but approach them with hesitation. They are so revolting to the laws of exact science, so alien, I had almost said, to the experience of our lives. Yet is this true, or are such experiences only ignored and put aside without serious consideration? Are there not in the history of each of us passages which strike our retrospective thought with awe, almost with terror? Are there not in nearly every community individuals who possess a mysterious power, concerning whose origin, mode of action, and limits, we and they are like, in the dark? "I refer to such organic forces as are popularly summed up under the words clairvoyance, mesmerism, rhabdomancy, animal magnetism, physical spiritualism. Civilized thousands stake their faith and hope here and hereafter, on the truth of these manifestations; rational medicine recognizes their existence, and while she attributes them to morbid and exceptional influences, confesses her want of more exact knowledge, and refrains from barren theorizing. Let us follow her example, and hold it enough to show that such powers, whatever they are, were known to the native priesthood as well as the modern spiritualists and the miracle mongers of the Middle Ages.

"Their highest development is what our ancestors called 'second sight.' That under certain conditions knowledge can pass from one mind to another otherwise than through the ordinary channels of the senses, is shown by the examples of persons en rapport. The limit to this we do not know, but it is not unlikely that clairvoyance or second sight is based upon it."

In his autobiography, the celebrated Sac chief, Black Hawk, related that his great grandfather "was inspired by a belief that at the end of four years he should see a white man, who would be to him a father." Under the direction of this vision he travelled eastward to a certain spot, and there, as he was fore-warned, met a Frenchman, through whom the nation was brought into alliance with France.

An anecdote related by Captain Jonathan Carver, an English trader, in his little book of travels, describes his travels among the Killistenoes. In 1767 they were in great straits for food, and depending upon the arrival of the traders to rescue them from starvation. They persuaded the chief priest to consult the divinities as to when the relief would arrive. After the usual preliminaries, their magnate announced that the next day, precisely when the sun reached the zenith, a canoe would arrive with further tidings. At the appointed hour, the whole village, together with the incredulous Englishman, was on the beach, and sure enough, at the minute specified, a canoe swung round a distant point of land and brought the expected news.

More spectacular is an account by Col. John Mason Brown published in the Atlantic Monthly (July 1866). Some years earlier as the head of a party of voyagers, he set forth in search of a band of Indians somewhere on the vast plains along the tributaries of the Copper-mine and Mackenzie rivers. Danger, disappointment, and the fatigues of the road induced one after another to turn back, until of the original ten only three remained. They were also on the point of giving up the apparently hopeless quest when they were met by some warriors of the very band they were seeking. The leader of these warriors had been sent out by one of their medicine men to find three whites whose horses, arms, attire, and personal appearance he minutely described, which description was repeated to Col. Brown by the warriors before they saw his two companions. Afterward, when the priest, a frank and simple-minded man, was asked to explain this extraordinary occurrence, he could offer no other explanation than that "he saw them coming, and heard them talk on their journey." Many additional tales such as these were recorded by later travelers.

Those nervous conditions associated with the name of Franz A. Mesmer were also nothing new to the Native American magical practioners. Rubbing and stroking the sick, and the laying on of hands, were very common parts of their clinical procedures, and at the initiations to their societies they were frequently exhibited. Observers have related that among the Nez Percés of Oregon, the novice was put to sleep by songs, incantations, and "certain passes of the hand," and that with the Dakotas he would be struck lightly on the breast at a preconcerted moment, and instantly "would drop prostrate on his face, his muscles rigid and quivering in every fibre."

White observers also saw magicians working magical tricks, a fact that supported the general distrust of Indians pervading the white culture. In Bulletin 30 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington Mathews stated: "Sleight-of-hand was not only much employed in the treatment of disease, but was used on many other occasions. A very common trick among Indian charlatans was to pretend to suck foreign bodies, such as stones, out of the persons of their patients. Records of this are found among many tribes, from the lowest in culture to the highest, even among the Aztecs. Of course, such trickery was not without some therapeutic efficacy, for, like many other proceedings of the shamans, it was designed to cure disease by influence on the imagination. A Hidatsa, residing in Dakota, in 1865, was known by the name of Cherry-in-the-mouth, because he had a trick of producing from his mouth, at any season, what seemed to be fresh wild cherries. He had found some way of preserving cherries, perhaps in whiskey, and it was easy for him to hide them in his mouth before intending to play the trick; but many of the Indians considered it wonderful magic.

"The most astonishing tricks of the Indians were displayed in their fire ceremonies and in handling hot substances, accounts of which performances pertain to various tribes. It is said that Chippewa sorcerers could handle with impunity redhot stones and burning brands, and could bathe the hands in boiling water or syrup; such magicians were called 'fire-dealers' and 'fire-handlers.' There are authentic accounts from various parts of the world of fire-dancers and fire-walks among barbarous races, and extraordinary fire acts are performed also among widely separated Indian tribes. Among the Arikara of what is now North Dakota, in the autumn of 1865, when a large fire in the center of the medicine lodge had died down until it became a bed of glowing embers, and the light in the lodge was dim, the performers ran with apparently bare feet among the hot coals and threw these around in the lodge with their bare hands, causing the spectators to flee. Among the Navaho, performers, naked except for breechcloth and moccasins, and having their bodies daubed with a white infusorial clay, run at high speed around a fire, holding in their hands great faggots of flaming cedar bark, which they apply to the bare backs of those in front of them and to their own persons. Their wild race around the fire is continued until the faggots are nearly all consumed, but they are never injured by the flame. This immunity may be accounted for by supposing that the cedar bark does not make a very hot fire, and that the clay coating protects the body. Menominee shamans are said to handle fire, as also are the female sorcerers of Honduras.

"Indians know well how to handle venomous serpents with impunity. If they can not avoid being bitten, as they usually can, they seem to be able to avert the fatal consequences of the bite. The wonderful acts performed in the Snake Dance of the Hopi have often been described.

"A trick of Navaho dancers, in the ceremony of the mountain chant, is to pretend to thrust an arrow far down the throat. In this feat an arrow with a telescopic shaft is used; the point is held between the teeth; the hollow part of the handle, covered with plumes, is forced down toward the lips, and thus the arrow appears to be swallowed. There is an account of an arrow of similar construction used early in the eighteenth century by Indians of Canada, who pretended a man was wounded by it and healed instantly. The Navaho also pretend to swallow sticks, which their neighbors of the pueblo of Zuñi actually do in sacred rites, occasionally rupturing the oesophagus in the ordeal of forcing a stick into the stomach. Special societies which practice magic, having for their chief object rainmaking and the cure of disease, exist among the southwestern tribes. Swallowing sticks, arrows, etc., eating and walking on fire, and trampling on cactus, are performed by members of the same fraternity.

"Magicians are usually men; but among the aborigines of the Mosquito Coast in Central America, they are often women who are called sukias, and are said to exercise great power. According to Hewitt, Iroquois women are reported traditionally to have been magicians. "A trick of the juggler among many tribes of the North was to cause himself to be bound hand and foot and then, without visible assistance or effort on his part to release himself from the bonds. Civilized conjurers who perform a similar trick are hidden in a cabinet, and claim supernatural aid; but some Indian jugglers performed this feat under observation. It was common for Indian magicians to pretend they could bring rain, but the trick consisted simply of keeping up ceremonies until rain fell, the last ceremony being the one credited with success. Catlin describes this among the Mandan, in 1832, and the practice is still common among the Pueblo tribes of the arid region. The rain-maker was a special functionary among the Me-nominee.

"To cause a large plant to grow to maturity in a few moments and out of season is another Indian trick. The Navaho plant the root stalk of a yucca in the ground in the middle of the winter, and apparently cause it to grow, blossom, and bear fruit in a few moments. This is done by the use of artificial flowers and fruit carried under the blankets of the performers; the dimness of the firelight and the motion of the surrounding dancers hide from the spectators the operations of the shaman when he exchanges one artificial object for another. In this way the Hopi grow beans, and the Zuñi corn, the latter using a large cooking pot to cover the growing plant."

European Settlers

The occult history of the European races that occupy the territories now known as the United States of America begins with their initial settlement of North America. The early English, German, and Dutch settlers brought with them an active belief in magic, witchcraft, and sorcery (malevolent magic). Settlers were aware of a range of magical practices such as image magic, and had a particular fear of curses aimed at them. Should such curses come to pass they would often attribute it to the sorcery of the person pronouncing the course. As early as 1638 in Massachusetts, Jane Hawkins was indicted for practicing witchcraft, though no record of a trial survived. Less than a decade later, however, Alice Young was tried and executed in Connecticut. Hers was the first of a steady stream of trials and a number of executions prior to the famous outbreak at Salem.

The numerous accusations of witchcraft prepared the way for the events at Salem Village (now Danvers), Massachusetts, as did the writings of two leading ministers, Increase Mather (1639-1723) and his son, Cotton Mather (1662-1728). As president of Harvard Increase Mather collected numerous accounts of what today would be called psychic occurrences as evidence of supernatural actions operating in the life of people and published these in An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences. Cotton, a brilliant child who entered Harvard at the age of twelve, was only 25 years old when he was placed in charge of North Church, Boston, the largest congregation in the colony. During the early years of his pastorate, he followed his father's interests and collected accounts of some unusual negative experiences of his parishioners which he viewed as the actions of supernatural forces among the people. He argued for the reality of witchcraft, both because the Bible declared it a reality and because he saw instances of it in the deranged behavior of Boston citizens. His conclusions were published in a widely read book published in 1689, Memorable Provinces Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions.

The strong belief in the power and presence of negative magic in Salem Village, supported by the writings of the Mathers, emerged in the context of a deep community division between the wealthier landowners and the poorer elements in the village as well as the threat of a war with the natives. For a generation Salem Village had been afflicted by economic tensions and the entire colony faced the threat of open hostilities breaking out as colonists continually expanded into Indian lands.

It began in the depths of winter when the daughters of parish minister the Rev. Samuel Parris began to play games of fortunetelling using the white of an egg as a crystal ball. Panic ensued when one of the girls saw a coffin in the egg. The fearfulness soon found expression in unexplained fits, which disrupted the household and on occasion the church services. A physician suggested witchcraft and while that suggestion was under consideration, a young woman in the village suggested to Tituba and John Indian, a Caribbean Indian couple (not African as is often alleged) who were slaves in the Parris household that they prepare a witch cake (rye meal mixed with the urine of the afflicted girls) to determine if in fact witchcraft was at work. When this plan came to light Tituba and two other women were arrested.

Unfortunately, the girls' fits did not end. They began to name residents of the village who were subsequently arrested. Through the spring months the jails were filled with the accused who could not be tried as the colony was in the midst of a crisis—their charter had expired and had not been renewed. A court was finally and hastily established in June 1692 and the trials began. The first woman tried, Briget Bishop, was sentenced to death. There was little evidence to support the cases against the accused beyond the claims of the girls that spectres of the accused afflicted them and caused their fits. During the trials, when the accused appeared, they would often react as if their mere presence caused them harm. And, as the trials and executions continued and the number of accused grew, the situation in Salem became a matter of colony-wide concern.

Cotton Mather played an active role in the trials. He believed the Devil was at work in Salem, and authored the response of the Boston ministers on the necessity of the trials. However, he warned against a too ready acceptance of spectral evidence. Additionally, he spoke on the occasion of the hanging of former parish minister George Burroughs. When Burroughs flawlessly spoke the Lord's Prayer, which supposedly a witch could not do, Mather rose to quiet the crowd and allowed the execution to continue. However, it was Mather who personally called upon Governor Phelps, who had spent much of the summer away from Boston fighting the Indians, to stop the trials which had reached such large proportions.

In the end, the court sentenced 31 (including 25 women) to death. Nineteen who pleaded not guilty were hanged. One Giles Cory refused to plead, thus making use of a legal provision that would prevent his property from being confiscated. One escaped jail and left the colony; two died in jail, and two who were pregnant survived and were freed. Five joined the 55 people who confessed and were later freed.

Reaction to the trials was widespread. Among the most vehement detractors was Thomas Brattle, an educated citizen of Boston, who attacked the proceedings and termed the whole affair utter nonsense. Mather published a reply, defending the court and the idea of witchcraft, The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693), but the tide of public opinion was slowly turning against the complex of ideas underlying the trials. Mather continued the debate in his later writings, but his reputation was severely damaged by Robert Calef's attack in More Wonders of the Invisible World (1700). Eventually, on January 15, 1697, the jurors who had brought in the guilty verdicts joined in a day of fasting and repentance for the injustices of the trials. In 1702, Samuel Sewell, the judge who presided, publicly confessed his guilt and asked pardon for his role in the proceedings.

Calef's view of Mather and the trial was largely adopted by later generations who came to deny the reality of witchcraft. His reputation was only resurrected when a vigorous reappraisal of witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England occurred by such scholars as Chadwick Hansen, Paul Boyer, Stephen Nissenbaum, and John Putnam Demos.

The whole magical supernatural world present during the Salem trials is also evident in the consideration of alchemy. For example, while condemning witchcraft, Cotton Mather praised John Winthrop, Jr., and his son Wait Still Winthrop (1642-1717), both prominent citizens and both also alchemists. While governor of Connecticut, the elder Winthrop conducted alchemical experiments in the governor's mansion. He built one of the largest alchemical libraries in America and on occasion hosted visiting alchemists from Europe. Both the Winthrops joined the debates then going on in medical circles over the introduction of nonorganic substances, i.e., chemical preparations, for the treatment of illnesses.

The Occult in the Nineteenth Century

Post-Revolutionary America is extremely rich in occult history as evidenced in the writings of Spiritualist, magical, and metaphysical teachers such as Thomas Lake Harris, Andrew Jackson Davis, William Q. Judge, Mary Baker Eddy, and the people who followed them into Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Christian Science. Hundreds of occult and metaphysical movements have either originated in, or found a home in the United States from the nineteenth century onward.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) had undoubtedly a semi-occult origin. Its founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed to discover tablets of gold upon which was engraved the new revelation, the Book of Mormon, which he translated by a process similar to modern channeling. Smith also tied the church loosely to Freemasonry.

Theosophy became firmly rooted in America through the efforts of William Q. Judge, and his successor Katherine B. Tingley, the founder of the theosophical colony at Point Loma, California. In recent years, however, the American society formerly led by Judge declined and most theosophists now adhere to the Theosophical Society headquartered in Adyar, India.

Modern American Occultism and Parapsychology

Throughout the twentieth century, old and new religious movements have appeared, and a few have flourished. Ceremonial magic and Neo-pagan Witchcraft have been imported from England and both have enjoyed their greatest success in the United States. One noteworthy aspect of the American scene has been the association of revivalist evangelism with paranormal healing, an association begun in the holiness movement but finding its greatest expression in Pentecostalism.

Interestingly enough, Spiritualism (which had grown from the Hydesville rappings association with the Fox Sisters in the nineteenth century) took a firmer hold in Great Britain, Europe, and Brazil, than in America. While Spiritualism swept across America, claimed many cultural leaders, and developed into a large organizational structure, it remained a relatively minuscule movement in the midst of a large population. It did become, as in Europe, the subject of a much public scrutiny, but declined in the wake of the discovery of widespread fraud. However, the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, founded in 1893, still has more than a hundred affiliated congregations.

The emergence of Spiritualism eventually led in 1885 to the formation of the American Society for Psychical Research as a branch of the London-based Society for Psychical Research. It investigated the mediumship and the phenomena associated with that movement over the next several generations and included in its leadership a number of outstanding scientists including William James, Walter Franklin Prince, James H. Hyslop and Hereward Carrington. In 1930, American biologist/psychologist J. B. Rhine gave a new direction to the whole of psychical research as director of the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University, North Carolina. Whereas psychical research was largely concerned with the phenomena associated with Spiritualist mediums, Rhine and his associates moved research from the séance-room into the laboratory and, under systematic control conditions, began testing the unknown or "extra-sensory" faculties (ESP for short) of ordinary individuals.

The new term, parapsychology, with its experimental methodology has now largely superseded the earlier approach of psychical research. Organizations also founded in the United States to pursue parapsychological research include thePsychical Research Foundation and the Parapsychology Foundation in New York, linked with the work and paranormal talents of Eileen Garrett. Rhine also led in the foundation of the Parapsychological Foundation, now the international professional association of parapsychologists.

At a popular level, belief in divination, especially astrology, has experienced a steady increase throughout the twentieth century, and is now widespread. More than 20 percent of the population express some acceptance of belief in astrology.

A major occult explosion took place in the 1960s, marked by an increased interest in psychic and occult phenomenon. This phenomenon merged into the New Age movement of the 1970s and 1980s, and earned a new respectability for those involved in the psychic movement, despite the concurrent interest in the more sinister aspects of occultism symbolized by the new Satanism.

The 1960s revival built upon earlier, if less intense, waves of interest, most notably those occurring during the 1920s and 30s. These earlier activities were of specialized coterie interest in line with the more structured society of the period, constituting a kind of occult underground of the kind described in books like Witchraft: Its Power in the World Today by William Sea-brook (1940). The witch craze of the colonial period had long ago died out, although magical practices and beliefs could be found throughout the country's rural areas and in the poorer sections of the urban centers. The last of the witchcraft trials was held in the early eighteenth century, when there were a few cases in Virginia. The twentieth-century revival of witchcraft and Satanism owed more to the freedom of the cities and the new climate of religious and cultural pluralism of the post-World War II era, undoubtedly strengthened by the widespread use of psychedelic drugs.

One of the most widespread popular preoccupations has been the phenomena of flying saucers or unidentified flying objects (UFOs), mysterious aerial objects of a disk-like shape. Such sightings had been reported for many centuries, but during the emerging space age of the 1950s, the idea that these UFOs might be spacecraft from other planets captured the popular imagination. In addition, many individuals (who in earlier generations would have become Spiritualist mediums) claimed to have met the occupants of these spacecrafts, taken trips in their crafts, and/or received psychic communications from space intelligences. With many thousands of claimed sightings, UFO groups sprang up all over the United States and interest spread to other countries of the world. At its lowest level, the flying saucer phenomenon has become something of a new mythology, comparable with other modern preoccupations such as near-death experiences. At a more responsible level, there remains a residuum of inexplicable phenomena that deserves closer investigation.

The emergence of a post-Enlightenment occult belief has been opposed at every level by leaders in the scientific community. The ongoing controversy has most recently led to the formation of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which is devoted to debunking occult and related claims and publishes a journal, Skeptical Inquirer.

The United States remains home to a vital popular interest in matters psychical and occult. Fate, the oldest of the occult-related periodicals, is but one of hundreds. The occult forms the basis for numerous books, movies, and television shows, and provides the substance for hundreds of religious groups and spiritual organizations, all of which provide the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal with an endless agenda.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974.

——. Salem-Village Witchcraft. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing, 1972.

Brinton, Daniel G. The Myths of the New World. Leypoldt and Holt, 1868.

Calef, Robert. More Wonders of the Invisible World. London, 1700.

Christopher, Milbourne. ESP, Seers and Psychics. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1970.

Clark, Jerome. The Emergence of a Phenomenon: UFOs from the Beginning through 1959. The UFO Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1992.

Demos, John Putnam. Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Ebon, Martin, ed. The Signet Handbook of Parapsychology. New York: New American Library, 1978.

Ellwood, Robert S., Jr. Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973.

Freelands, Nat. The Occult Explosion. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons/London: Michael Joseph, 1972.

Fritscher, John. Popular Witchcraft: Straight from the Witch's Mouth. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1972.

Godwin, John. Occult America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972.

Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft at Salem. New York: George Braziller, 1969. Reprint, New York: New American Library, 1970.

Hohman, Johann George. Der lange vernorgene Freund. Reading, Pa., 1819. English edition as The Long Lost Friend. Harrisburg, Pa., 1850.

Jack, Alex. The New Age Dictionary. Brookline Village, Mass.: Kanthaka Press, 1976.

Jacobs, David M. The UFO Controversy in America. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1975. Reprint, New York: New American Library, 1976.

Khalsa, Parmatma Singh, ed. Spiritual Community Guide No. 4, California: Spiritual Community Publications, 1979.

Kittredge, G. L. Witchcraft in Old and New England. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929.

La Barre, Weston. Ghost Dance: The Origins of Religion. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971.

Mather, Cotton. Wonders of the Invisible World. Boston, 1693. Reprint, Anherst, Wis.: Amherst Press, n.d.

Mather, Increase. Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits. Boston, 1693.

Melton, J. Gordon, and Isotta Poggi. Magic, Witchcraft, and Paganism in America: A Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.

Mooney, James. "The Ghost-Dance Religion." In Annual Report of Bureau of American Ethnology. 14, 2, (1893).

Needleman, Jacob. The New Religions. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970.

Rhine, J. B. and Associates. Parapsychology from Duke to FRNM. Durham, N.C.: Parapsychology Press, 1965.

Sladek, John. The New Apocrypha: A Guide to Strange Sciences & Occult Beliefs. New York: Stein and Day, 1974.

Starkey, Marion L. The Devil in Massachusetts. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1952. Reprint, New York: Time, 1949.

Upham, Charles W. Salem Witchcraft with an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinion on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects. 2 Vols. Boston, 1867. Reprint, New York: Ungar, 1959.

White, Rhea A., and Laura A. Dale. Parapsychology: Sources of Information. Metheun, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1973.

National Anthem:

National Anthem of: United States


Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see
by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we
hailed at the twilight's
last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes
and bright stars thru
the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we
watched were so
gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red
glare, the bombs
bursting in air,
Gave proof thru the
night that our flag was
still there.
Oh, say does that
star-spangled banner
yet wave
O'er the land of the
free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly
seen through the mists
of the deep,
Where the foe's
haughty host in dread
silence reposes,
What is that which the
breeze, o'er the
towering steep,
As it fitfully blows,
half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the
gleam of the morning's
first beam, In full glory reflected
now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled
banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the
free and the home of the brave.

And where is that
band who so
vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war
and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country
should leave us no more!
Their blood has
washed out of of their
foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save
the hireling and slave'
From the terror of
flight and the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled
banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the
free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever,
when freemen shall stand
Between their loved
home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and
peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that
hath made and
preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we
must, when our cause
it is just,
And this be our
motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled
banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the
free and the home of the brave.

(DOD) Includes the land area, internal waters, territorial sea, and airspace of the United States, including the following: a. US territories, possessions, and commonwealths; and b. Other areas over which the US Government has complete jurisdiction and control or has exclusive authority or defense responsibility.

Encyclopedia of the Holocaust:

United States of America


Long considered to be a country that could be counted on as a place of refuge for the "tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free," the United States did not live up to those expectations during the Holocaust. The US government would not change its immigration quotas to allow in more Jewish Refugees from Europe, nor did it embark on extensive rescue operations. Despite relatively early knowledge of the true meaning of the "final solution," the Americans refused to bomb the railroad tracks leading to the auschwitz extermination camp. President Franklin D. roosevelt, long supported by most American Jews, would not allow the war with the Germans to be depicted as a battle to save European Jewry.

The United States' ambivalent policy regarding Nazi antisemitism can be viewed as a result of several factors. The country was slowly recovering from the crippling Great Depression, which had left many Americans in poverty. Public opinion condemned the notion of allowing in European refugees who were liable to take away jobs from Americans who really needed them. Many Americans also called for isolationism, with an emphasis on America first. They did not want the government to adopt a policy of intervention in the affairs of other countries. Furthermore, there were strong antisemitic elements within the American government. Right-wing politicians criticized both Roosevelt's New Deal programs and American Jews, whom they associated with the liberal president. Laws calling for rescue operations were not passed because those politicians refused to support them. In addition, the State Department itself was responsible for the prevention of the rescue of European Jews from the Nazis.

During the 1930s, American immigration quotas were very low, and even those were prevented from being filled. In July 1938 President Roosevelt convened the evian conference with delegates from 32 countries to discuss the growing European refugee problem. However, not one country, including the United States, was willing to selflessly take in any refugees. All the American delegate would commit to was making the previously unfilled quota for Germans and Austrians available to the new refugees. The American-initiated conference did nothing to help those refugees desperately trying to get out of Europe before it was too late.

After the kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938, the American ambassador to germany was recalled in a gesture of disapproval. However, the United States continued to ignore the refugee problem by refusing to take in or even intercede on behalf of the 937 Jewish refugees sailing on the st. louis, a ship that had left Germany in May 1939. Those Jews were subsequently turned back to Europe, where most perished in the Holocaust. In 1939 and 1940, a bill to allow 10,000 Jewish children into the United States was never even put to discussion in Congress.

The United States entered world war ii in December 1941. From then on, the government's main priority was winning the war, not saving Europe's Jews. The anti-refugee activists in the government also began spreading the fear that if refugees would be allowed to enter the country, the Germans would plant spies among them. Thus, they felt that no refugees should be admitted. Roosevelt did not want to alienate those elements of the government by making it look like the war was about the Jews. Thus, at the Allies' war conferences, the mass annihilation of European Jewry was not even mentioned---despite the fact that the United States had received reliable reports about the dire situation in Europe.

As further reports of Nazi atrocities reached the West by the end of 1942, the British government was put under pressure to do something to help the Jews. They decided to make a small gesture in order to assuage the British public. On December 17, 1942 the United States joined great britain, norway, the soviet union, and various governments-in-exile in loudly condemning the Nazis' "bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination." Nevertheless, this was just a gesture.

Another meaningless gesture was made in April 1943, at the bermuda conference, convened by the United States and Great Britain. Ostensibly, the conference was called to deal with the refugee problem again, now that the world knew what was really happening in Europe. However, the organizers designed the conference to be as unsuccessful as possible. The venue of Bermuda itself was remote and hard to reach, almost no reporters were admitted in, and no Jewish representatives were invited. The Jewish aspect of the issue was forbidden to be discussed, along with the words "Final Solution." In the end, the conference was called to shush the growing public outcries for the rescue of European Jewry without actually having to find any solutions to the problem.

During the winter of 1942--1943, the opposite ends of the spectrum in the American government were revealed: certain government officials began pressuring President Roosevelt to issue a rescue proclamation, while the State Department continued to sabotage rescue efforts. When Henry morgenthau, the Jewish Secretary of the Treasury, found out about the State Department's activities, he immediately reported them to the president. Fearing a scandal, the president decided to establish an agency for the rescue of Jewish refugees. This was called the war refugee board (WRB).

Fighting America's previous policy on Jewish refugees, the WRB tried to do its best to rescue Jews. It sponsored the activities of diplomats like Raoul wallenberg, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews, and it pushed for the establishment of a safe haven for refugees in fort ontario, New York. However, Roosevelt would not support the institution of other such havens, nor would he agree to the board's recommendations to publicly condemn the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis and bomb Auschwitz. Thus, the success of the WRB proved to be too little, too late. Only after the war did President Harry S. truman enlarge America's immigrant quotas to allow in Holocaust survivors and support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. (see also auschwitz, bombing of.)

Random House Word Menu:

categories related to 'United States'

Random House Word Menu by Stephen Glazier
For a list of words related to United States, see:
  • Nations of the World - United States: United States of America; in central North America; capital Washington, D.C.; area 3,618,774 sq. mi., pop. 250,372,000; English; Christian; dollar

Wikipedia on

United States

United States of America
Flag Great Seal
Anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"

March: "The Stars and Stripes Forever"[4]

Projection of North America with the United States in green
The contiguous United States plus Alaska and Hawaii in green
The United States and its territories
The United States and its territories
Capital Washington, D.C.
38°53′N 77°01′W / 38.883°N 77.017°W / 38.883; -77.017
Largest city New York City
40°43′N 74°00′W / 40.717°N 74.000°W / 40.717; -74.000
Official languages None at federal level
Recognised regional languages
National language English[b]
Demonym American
Government Federal presidential constitutional republic
 -  President Barack Obama
 -  Vice President Joseph Biden
 -  Speaker of the House John Boehner
 -  Chief Justice John Roberts
Legislature Congress
 -  Upper house Senate
 -  Lower house House of Representatives
 -  Declaration July 4, 1776 
 -  Confederation March 1, 1781 
 -  Treaty of Paris September 3, 1783 
 -  Constitution June 21, 1788 
 -  Last state admission August 21, 1959 
 -  Land (93.02%) 9,147,593 km2 (3rd)
3,531,905.43 sq mi
 -  2015 estimate 320,206,000[5] (3rd)
 -  Density 34.2/km2 (180th)
88.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2013 estimate
 -  Total $16.72 trillion [6] (1st)
 -  Per capita $52,800 [6] (10th)
GDP (nominal) 2013 estimate
 -  Total $16.768 trillion[7] (1st)
 -  Per capita $53,042[8] (9th)
Gini (2013) 38.0[9][10][11]
HDI (2013) Steady 0.914[12]
very high · 5th
Currency United States dollar ($) (USD)
Time zone (UTC−5 to −10)
 -  Summer (DST)  (UTC−4 to −10[d])
Drives on the right[e]
Calling code +1
ISO 3166 code US
Internet TLD .us   .gov   .mil   .edu
a. ^ English is the official language of at least 28 states; some sources give higher figures, based on differing definitions of "official".[13] English and Hawaiian are both official languages in the state of Hawaii. French is a de facto language in the states of Maine and Louisiana, while New Mexico state law grants Spanish a special status.[14][15][16][17]
b. ^ English is the de facto language of American government and the sole language spoken at home by 80 percent of Americans aged five and older. 28 states and five territories have made English an official language. Other official languages include Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Carolinian.
c. ^ Whether the United States or China is larger has been disputed. The figure given is from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's The World Factbook. Other sources give smaller figures. All authoritative calculations of the country's size include only the 50 states and the District of Columbia, not the territories.
d. ^ See Time in the United States for details about laws governing time zones in the United States.
e. ^ Except the United States Virgin Islands.

The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic[18][19] consisting of 50 states and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is located in the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.80 million square miles (9.85 million km2)[20] and with over 320 million people, the United States is the world's fourth-largest country by total area and third-largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries.[21] The geography and climate of the United States are also extremely diverse, and the country is home to a wide variety of wildlife.[22]

Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland around 15,000 years ago,[23] with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the East Coast. Disputes between Great Britain and the colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with recognition of the independence of the United States by the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire.[24] The country's constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 and ratified by the states in 1788. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.

Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century.[25] This involved displacing American Indian tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states, until by 1848 the nation spanned the continent.[25] During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country.[26][27] By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean,[28] and the economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar.[29] The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower.[30]

The United States is a developed country and has the world's largest national economy,[31] benefiting from an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity.[32] While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, the country continues to be one of the world's largest manufacturers.[33] Accounting for 37% of global military spending[34] and 19% of world GDP (PPP),[35] it is the world's foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.[36]


In 1507, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere "America" after the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci (Latin: Americus Vespucius).[37] The first documentary evidence of the phrase "United States of America" is from a letter dated January 2, 1776, written by Stephen Moylan, Esq., George Washington's aide-de-camp and Muster-Master General of the Continental Army. Addressed to Lt. Col. Joseph Reed, Moylan expressed his wish to carry the "full and ample powers of the United States of America" to Spain to assist in the revolutionary war effort.[38]

The first known publication of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymously written essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776.[39][40] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson included the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[41][42] In the final Fourth of July version of the Declaration, the pertinent section of the title was changed to read, "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America".[43] In 1777 the Articles of Confederation announced, "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'".[44]

The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms include the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names include the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a name popular in poetry and songs of the late 1700s, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia".[45] In non-English languages, the name is frequently the translation of either the "United States" or "United States of America", and colloquially as "America". In addition, an abbreviation (e.g. USA) is sometimes used.[46]

The phrase "United States" was originally treated as plural, a description of a collection of independent states—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. It became common to treat it as singular, a single unit—e.g., "the United States is"—after the end of the Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is retained in the idiom "these United States".[47] The difference has been described as more significant than one of usage, but reflecting the difference between a collection of states and a unit.[48]

The standard way to refer to a citizen of the United States is as an "American". "United States", "American" and "U.S." are used to refer to the country adjectivally ("American values", "U.S. forces"). "American" is rarely used in English to refer to subjects not connected with the United States.[49]


Native Americans meeting with Europeans, 1764

Native American and European contact[edit]

The first North American settlers migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge approximately 15,000 or more years ago.[23][50][51] Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies. After European explorers and traders made the first contacts, the native population declined for various reasons, including diseases, such as smallpox and measles,[52][53] and violence.[54][55][56]

In the early days of colonization many settlers were subject to food shortages, disease and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars.[57] At the same time, however, many natives and settlers came to depend on each other. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts, natives for guns, ammunition and other European wares.[58] Natives taught many settlers where, when and how to cultivate corn, beans and squash. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Indians and urged them to concentrate on farming and ranching rather than depending on hunting and gathering.[59][60]


After Columbus' first voyage to the New World in 1492, other explorers followed with settlement into the Floridas and the American Southwest.[61][62] There were also some French attempts to colonize the east coast, and later more successful settlements along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. Early experiments in communal living failed until the introduction of private farm holdings.[63] Many settlers were dissenting Christian groups who came seeking religious freedom. The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses created in 1619, and the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[64][65]

Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620

Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but other industries developed within a few decades as varied as the settlements. Cash crops included tobacco, rice and wheat. Extraction industries grew up in furs, fishing and lumber. Manufacturers produced rum and ships, and by the late colonial period Americans were producing one-seventh of the world's iron supply.[66] Cities eventually dotted the coast to support local economies and serve as trade hubs. English colonists were supplemented by waves of Scotch-Irish and other groups. As coastal land grew more expensive freed indentured servants pushed further west.[67] Slave cultivation of cash crops began with the Spanish in the 1500s, and was adopted by the English, but life expectancy was much higher in North America because of less disease and better food and treatment, leading to a rapid increase in the numbers of slaves.[68][69][70] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery and colonies passed acts for and against the practice.[71][72] But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.[73]

With the colonization of Georgia in 1732, the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America were established.[74] All had local governments with elections open to most free men, with a growing devotion to the ancient rights of Englishmen and a sense of self-government stimulating support for republicanism.[75] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively small Native American populations were eclipsed.[76] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest in both religion and religious liberty.[77]

In the French and Indian War, British forces seized Canada from the French, but the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the Native Americans, who were being conquered and displaced, those 13 colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about one-third that of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas.[78] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.[79]

Independence and expansion[edit]

The Declaration of Independence: the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress in 1776

The American Revolutionary War was the first successful colonial war of independence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism" asserting that government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their rights as Englishmen, "no taxation without representation". The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[80] Following the passage of the Lee Resolution, on July 2, 1776, which was the actual vote for independence, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, which proclaimed, in a long preamble, that humanity is created equal in their unalienable rights and that those rights were not being protected by Great Britain, and finally declared, in the words of the resolution, that the Thirteen Colonies were independent states and had no allegiance to the British crown in the United States. July fourth is celebrated annually as Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a weak government that operated until 1789.[81]

Britain recognized the independence of the United States following their defeat at Yorktown.[82] In the peace treaty of 1783, American sovereignty was recognized from the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River. Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into three branches, on the principle of creating salutary checks and balances, in 1789. George Washington, who had led the revolutionary army to victory, was the first president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[83]

Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 1808, after 1820 cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it the slave population.[84][85][86] The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism;[87] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[88]

Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of American Indian Wars.[89] The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost doubled the nation's size.[90] The War of 1812, declared against Britain over various grievances and fought to a draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism.[91] A series of U.S. military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819.[92] Expansion was aided by steam power, when steamboats began traveling along America's large water systems, which were connected by new canals, such as the Erie and the I&M; then, even faster railroads began their stretch across the nation's land.[93]

U.S. territorial acquisitions–portions of each territory were granted statehood since the 18th century.

From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of reforms which included wider male suffrage; it led to the rise of the Second Party System of Democrats and Whigs as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that moved Indians into the west to their own reservations. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a period of expansionist Manifest destiny.[94] The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[95] Victory in the Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.[96]

The California Gold Rush of 1848–49 spurred western migration and the creation of additional western states.[97] After the American Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[98] Over a half-century, the loss of the buffalo was an existential blow to many Plains Indians cultures.[99] In 1869, a new Peace Policy sought to protect Native-Americans from abuses, avoid further warfare, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship.[100]

Civil War and Reconstruction Era[edit]

Further information: American Civil War and Reconstruction Era

From the beginning of the United States, inherent divisions over slavery between the North and the South in American society ultimately led to the American Civil War.[101] Initially, states entering the Union alternated between slave and free states, keeping a sectional balance in the Senate, while free states outstripped slave states in population and in the House of Representatives. But with additional western territory and more free-soil states, tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over federalism and disposition of the territories, whether and how to expand or restrict slavery.[102]

With the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the first president from the largely anti-slavery Republican Party, conventions in thirteen states ultimately declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America, while the U.S. federal government maintained that secession was illegal.[102] The ensuing war was at first for Union, then after 1863 as casualties mounted and Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation, a second war aim became abolition of slavery. The war remains the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of approximately 618,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.[103]

Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution brought about the prohibition of slavery, gave U.S. citizenship to the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves,[104] and promised them voting rights. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power[105] aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the Southern states while ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves.[106] But following the Reconstruction Era, throughout the South Jim Crow laws soon effectively disenfranchised most blacks and some poor whites. Over the subsequent decades, in both the North and the South blacks and some whites faced systemic discrimination, including racial segregation and occasional vigilante violence, sparking national movements against these abuses.[106]


Ellis Island, in New York City, was a major gateway for the influx of immigration from Europe

In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture.[107] National infrastructure including telegraph and transcontinental railroads spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric light and the telephone would also impact communication and urban life.[108] The end of the Indian Wars further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets.[109] Mainland expansion was completed by the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.[110] In 1898 the U.S. entered the world stage with important sugar production and strategic facilities acquired in Hawaii.[111] Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish–American War.[112]

Rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century produced many prominent industrialists, and the U.S. economy became the world's largest.[113] Dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[114] This period eventually ended with the advent of the Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms in many societal areas, including women's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, regulation of consumer goods, greater antitrust measures to ensure competition and attention to worker conditions.

World War I, Great Depression, and World War II[edit]

Further information: World War I, Great Depression and World War II
U.S. troops approaching Omaha Beach during World War II

The United States remained neutral at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, though by 1917, it joined the Allies, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[115]

In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage.[116] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television.[117] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, which included the establishment of the Social Security system.[118] The Great Migration of millions of African Americans out of the American South began around WWI and extended through the 1960s;[119] whereas the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.[120]

The United States was at first effectively neutral during World War II's early stages but began supplying material to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers.[121] Though the nation lost more than 400,000 soldiers,[122] it emerged relatively undamaged from the war with even greater economic and military influence.[123] Allied conferences at Bretton Woods and Yalta outlined a new system of international organizations that placed the United States and Soviet Union at the center of world affairs. As an Allied victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[124] The United States developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.[125]

Cold War and civil rights era[edit]

Main articles: History of the United States (1945–64), History of the United States (1964–80) and History of the United States (1980–91)
US President Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, meeting in Geneva in 1985

After World War II the United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for power during what is known as the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism.[126] They dominated the military affairs of Europe, with the U.S. and its NATO allies on one side and the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other. The U.S. developed a policy of "containment" toward Soviet bloc expansion. While they engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict. The U.S. often opposed Third World left-wing movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored. American troops fought communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–53. The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961 launch of the first manned spaceflight initiated a "Space Race" in which the United States became the first to land a man on the moon in 1969.[127] A proxy war was expanded in Southeast Asia with the Vietnam War.[fn 1]

At home, the U.S. experienced sustained economic expansion and a rapid growth of its population and middle class. Construction of an Interstate Highway System transformed the nation's infrastructure over the following decades. Millions moved from farms and inner cities to large suburban housing developments.[134][135] A growing civil rights movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination, with Martin Luther King, Jr. becoming a prominent leader and figurehead. A combination of court decisions and legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sought to end racial discrimination.[136][137][138] Meanwhile, a counterculture movement grew which was fueled by opposition to the Vietnam war, black nationalism, and the sexual revolution. The launch of a "War on Poverty" expanded entitlement and welfare spending.[139]

The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation. After his election in 1980, President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with free-market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of détente, he abandoned "containment" and initiated the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the USSR.[140][141][142][143][144] After a surge in female labor participation over the previous decade, by 1985 the majority of women aged 16 and over were employed.[145] The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the USSR, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold War.[146][147][148][149]

Contemporary history[edit]

One World Trade Center, built in its former place

After the Cold War, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history, ending in 2001.[150] Originating in U.S. defense networks, the Internet spread to international academic networks, and then to the public in the 1990s, greatly impacting the global economy, society, and culture.[151] On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.[152] In response the United States launched the War on Terror, which includes the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the 2003–11 Iraq War.[153][154]

Beginning in 1994, the U.S. participates in the world's largest trade bloc in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), linking 450 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services. The goal of the agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico was met to eliminate trade and investment barriers among them by January 1, 2008; trade among the partners has soared since the agreement went into force.[155]

Barack Obama, the first African American,[156] and multiracial[157] president, was elected in 2008 amid the Great Recession,[158] which began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.[159]

Geography, climate, and environment[edit]

A composite satellite image of the contiguous United States and surrounding areas

The land area of the contiguous United States is 2,959,064 square miles (7,663,941 km2). Alaska, separated from the contiguous United States by Canada, is the largest state at 663,268 square miles (1,717,856 km2). Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square miles (28,311 km2) in area.[160]

The United States is the world's third or fourth largest nation by total area (land and water), ranking behind Russia and Canada and just above or below China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted and how the total size of the United States is measured: calculations range from 3,676,486 square miles (9,522,055 km2)[161] to 3,717,813 square miles (9,629,091 km2)[162] to 3,794,101 square miles (9,826,676 km2).[6] to 3,805,927 square miles (9,857,306 km2).[20] Measured by only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.[163]

The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont.[164] The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest.[165] The MississippiMissouri River, the world's fourth longest river system, runs mainly north–south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast.[165]

The Rocky Mountains, at the western edge of the Great Plains, extend north to south across the country, reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m) in Colorado.[166] Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Chihuahua and Mojave.[167] The Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges run close to the Pacific coast, both ranges reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m). The lowest and highest points in the continental United States are in the state of California,[168] and only about 84 miles (135 km) apart.[169] At 20,320 feet (6,194 m), Alaska's Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in the country and in North America.[170] Active volcanoes are common throughout Alaska's Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest volcanic feature.[171]

The United States, with its large size and geographic variety, includes most climate types. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continental in the north to humid subtropical in the south.[172] The southern tip of Florida is tropical, as is Hawaii.[173] The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains have an alpine climate. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington and southern Alaska. Most of Alaska is subarctic or polar. Extreme weather is not uncommon—the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world's tornadoes occur within the country, mainly in Tornado Alley areas in the Midwest.[174]


The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.

The U.S. ecology is megadiverse: about 17,000 species of vascular plants occur in the contiguous United States and Alaska, and over 1,800 species of flowering plants are found in Hawaii, few of which occur on the mainland.[175] The United States is home to 428 mammal species, 784 bird species, 311 reptile species, and 295 amphibian species.[176] About 91,000 insect species have been described.[177] The bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States, and is an enduring symbol of the country itself.[178]

There are 58 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas.[179] Altogether, the government owns about 28% of the country's land area.[180] Most of this is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching; about .86% is used for military purposes.[181][182]

Environmental issues have been on the national agenda since 1970. Environmental controversies include debates on oil and nuclear energy, dealing with air and water pollution, the economic costs of protecting wildlife, logging and deforestation,[183][184] and international responses to global warming.[185][186] Many federal and state agencies are involved. The most prominent is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by presidential order in 1970.[187] The idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands since 1964, with the Wilderness Act.[188] The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is intended to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[189]



Largest ancestry groups by county, 2000
Race/Ethnicity (2013)
By race:[190]
White 77.7%
African American 13.2%
Asian 5.3%
American Indian and Alaska Native 1.2%
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander 0.2%
Multiracial (2 or more) 2.4%
By ethnicity:[190]
Hispanic/Latino (of any race) 17.1%
Non-Hispanic/Latino (of any race) 82.9%
The Statue of Liberty in New York City is a symbol of both the U.S. and the ideals of freedom, democracy, and opportunity.[191]

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the country's population now to be 320,590,000,[5] The U.S. population almost quadrupled during the 20th century, from about 76 million in 1900.[192] The third most populous nation in the world, after China and India, the United States is the only major industrialized nation in which large population increases are projected.[193]

The United States has a very diverse population; 37 ancestry groups have more than one million members.[194] German Americans are the largest ethnic group (more than 50 million) - followed by Irish Americans (circa 37 million), Mexican Americans (circa 31 million) and English Americans (circa 28 million).[195][196]

White Americans are the largest racial group; Black Americans are the nation's largest racial minority and third largest ancestry group.[194] Asian Americans are the country's second largest racial minority; the three largest Asian American ethnic groups are Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, and Indian Americans.[194]

The United States has a birth rate of 13 per 1,000, which is 5 births below the world average.[197] Its population growth rate is positive at 0.7%, higher than that of many developed nations.[198] In fiscal year 2012, over one million immigrants (most of whom entered through family reunification) were granted legal residence.[199] Mexico has been the leading source of new residents since the 1965 Immigration Act. China, India, and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year since the 1990s.[200] As of 2012, approximately 11.4 million residents are illegal immigrants.[201]

According to a survey conducted by the Williams Institute, nine million Americans, or roughly 3.4% of the adult population identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender.[202][203] A 2012 Gallup poll also concluded that 3.5% of adult Americans identified as LGBT. The highest percentage came from the District of Columbia (10%), while the lowest state was North Dakota at 1.7%.[204] In a 2013 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 96.6% of Americans identify as straight, while 1.6% identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% identify as being bisexual.[205]

In 2010, the U.S. population included an estimated 5.2 million people with some American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry (2.9 million exclusively of such ancestry) and 1.2 million with some native Hawaiian or Pacific island ancestry (0.5 million exclusively).[206] The census counted more than 19 million people of "Some Other Race" who were "unable to identify with any" of its five official race categories in 2010.[206]

The population growth of Hispanic and Latino Americans (the terms are officially interchangeable) is a major demographic trend. The 50.5 million Americans of Hispanic descent[206] are identified as sharing a distinct "ethnicity" by the Census Bureau; 64% of Hispanic Americans are of Mexican descent.[207] Between 2000 and 2010, the country's Hispanic population increased 43% while the non-Hispanic population rose just 4.9%.[208] Much of this growth is from immigration; in 2007, 12.6% of the U.S. population was foreign-born, with 54% of that figure born in Latin America.[209]

Fertility is also a factor; in 2010 the average Hispanic (of any race) woman gave birth to 2.35 children in her lifetime, compared to 1.97 for non-Hispanic black women and 1.79 for non-Hispanic white women (both below the replacement rate of 2.1).[210] Minorities (as defined by the Census Bureau as all those beside non-Hispanic, non-multiracial whites) constituted 36.3% of the population in 2010,[211] and over 50% of children under age one,[212] and are projected to constitute the majority by 2042.[213] This contradicts the report by the National Vital Statistics Reports, based on the U.S. census data, which concludes that 54% (2,162,406 out of 3,999,386 in 2010) of births were non-Hispanic white.[210]

About 82% of Americans live in urban areas (including suburbs);[6] about half of those reside in cities with populations over 50,000.[214] In 2008, 273 incorporated places had populations over 100,000, nine cities had more than one million residents, and four global cities had over two million (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston).[215] There are 52 metropolitan areas with populations greater than one million.[216] Of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas, 47 are in the West or South.[217] The metro areas of San Bernardino, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Phoenix all grew by more than a million people between 2000 and 2008.[216]


Languages spoken at home by more than 1,000,000 persons in the U.S.
as of 2010
Language Percent of
Number of
English (only) 80% 233,780,338
Combined total of all languages
other than English
20% 57,048,617
(excluding Puerto Rico and Spanish Creole)
12% 35,437,985
(including Cantonese and Mandarin)
0.9% 2,567,779
Tagalog 0.5% 1,542,118
Vietnamese 0.4% 1,292,448
French 0.4% 1,288,833
Korean 0.4% 1,108,408
German 0.4% 1,107,869
See also: Language Spoken at Home in the United States of America and List of endangered languages in the United States

English (American English) is the de facto national language. Although there is no official language at the federal level, some laws—such as U.S. naturalization requirements—standardize English. In 2010, about 230 million, or 80% of the population aged five years and older, spoke only English at home. Spanish, spoken by 12% of the population at home, is the second most common language and the most widely taught second language.[219][220] Some Americans advocate making English the country's official language, as it is in 28 states.[13]

Both Hawaiian and English are official languages in Hawaii, by state law.[221] Alaska recognizes many Native languages.[222] While neither has an official language, New Mexico has laws providing for the use of both English and Spanish, as Louisiana does for English and French.[223] Other states, such as California, mandate the publication of Spanish versions of certain government documents including court forms.[224] Many jurisdictions with large numbers of non-English speakers produce government materials, especially voting information, in the most commonly spoken languages in those jurisdictions.

Several insular territories grant official recognition to their native languages, along with English: Samoan[225] and Chamorro[226] are recognized by American Samoa and Guam, respectively; Carolinian and Chamorro are recognized by the Northern Mariana Islands;[227] Cherokee is officially recognized by the Cherokee Nation within the Cherokee tribal jurisdiction area in eastern Oklahoma;[228] Spanish is an official language of Puerto Rico and is more widely spoken than English there.[229]


Religious affiliation in the U.S. (2007)[230]
Affiliation % of U.S. population
Christian 79 79
Evangelical Protestant 26 26
Catholic 24 24
Mainline Protestant 18 18
Black Protestant 7 7
Mormon 1.7 1.7
Other Christian 1.6 1.6
Judaism 1.7 1.7
Buddhism 0.7 0.7
Islam 0.6 0.6
Hinduism 0.4 0.4
Other faith 1.2 1.2
Unaffiliated 16 16
Don't know/refused answer 0.8 0.8
Total 100 100

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and forbids Congress from passing laws respecting its establishment. Christianity is by far the most common religion practiced in the U.S., but other religions are followed, too. In a 2013 survey, 56% of Americans said that religion played a "very important role in their lives", a far higher figure than that of any other wealthy nation.[231] In a 2009 Gallup poll 42% of Americans said that they attended church weekly or almost weekly; the figures ranged from a low of 23% in Vermont to a high of 63% in Mississippi.[232] As with other Western countries, the U.S. is becoming less religious. Irreligion is growing rapidly among Americans under 30.[233] Polls show that overall American confidence in organized religion is declining,[234] and that younger Americans in particular are becoming increasingly irreligious.[235]

According to a 2014 survey, 78.5% of adults identified themselves as Christian,[236] Protestant denominations accounted for 51.3%, while Roman Catholicism, at 23.9%, was the largest individual denomination.[237] The total reporting non-Christian religions in 2012 was 4.9%, up from 4% in 2007.[237] Other religions include Judaism (1.7%), Buddhism (0.7%), Islam (0.6%), Hinduism (0.4%), and Unitarian Universalism (0.3%).[237] The survey also reported that 16.1% of Americans described themselves as agnostic, atheist or simply having no religion, up from 8.2% in 1990.[237][238][239] There are also Baha'i, Sikh, Jain, Shinto, Confucian, Taoist, Druid, Native American, Wiccan, humanist and deist communities.[240]

Protestantism is the largest Christian religious grouping in the United States. Baptists collectively form the largest branch of Protestantism, and the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest individual Protestant denomination. About 26 percent of Americans identify as Evangelical Protestants, while 18 percent are Mainline and 7 percent belong to a traditionally Black church. Roman Catholicism in the United States has its origin in the Spanish and French colonization of the Americas, and later grew due to Irish, Italian, Polish, German and Hispanic immigration. Rhode Island is the only state where a majority of the population is Catholic. Lutheranism in the U.S. has its origin in immigration from Northern Europe. North and South Dakota are the only states in which a plurality of the population is Lutheran. Utah is the only state where Mormonism is the religion of the majority of the population. The Mormon Corridor also extends to parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.[241]

The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative Evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. By contrast, religion plays the least important role in New England and in the Western United States.[232]

Family structure[edit]

In 2007, 58% of Americans age 18 and over were married, 6% were widowed, 10% were divorced, and 25% had never been married.[242] Women now work mostly outside the home and receive a majority of bachelor's degrees.[243]

The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate, 79.8 per 1,000 women, is the highest among OECD nations.[244] Between 2007 and 2010, the highest teenage birth rate was in Mississippi, and the lowest in New Hampshire.[245] Abortion is legal throughout the U.S., owing to Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. While the abortion rate is falling, the abortion ratio of 241 per 1,000 live births and abortion rate of 15 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 remain higher than those of most Western nations.[246] In 2011, the average age at first birth was 25.6 and 40.7% of births were to unmarried women.[247] The total fertility rate (TFR) was estimated for 2013 at 1.86 births per woman.[248] Adoption in the United States is common and relatively easy from a legal point of view (compared to other Western countries).[249] In 2001, with over 127,000 adoptions, the U.S. accounted for nearly half of the total number of adoptions worldwide.[250] The legal status of same-sex couples adopting varies by jurisdiction. Polygamy is illegal throughout the U.S.[251]

Government and politics[edit]

The United States Capitol,
where Congress meets:
the Senate, left; the House, right
The White House, home of the U.S. President

The United States is the world's oldest surviving federation. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, "in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law".[252] The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the U.S. Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.[253] For 2013, the U.S. ranked 19th on the Democracy Index[254] and 17th on the Corruption Perceptions Index.[255]

In the American federalist system, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district. There is no proportional representation at the federal level, and it is very rare at lower levels.[256]

Political system of the United States

The federal government is composed of three branches:

The House of Representatives has 435 voting members, each representing a congressional district for a two-year term. House seats are apportioned among the states by population every tenth year. At the 2010 census, seven states had the minimum of one representative, while California, the most populous state, had 53.[261]

The Senate has 100 members with each state having two senators, elected at-large to six-year terms; one third of Senate seats are up for election every other year. The President serves a four-year term and may be elected to the office no more than twice. The President is not elected by direct vote, but by an indirect electoral college system in which the determining votes are apportioned to the states and the District of Columbia.[262] The Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice of the United States, has nine members, who serve for life.[263]

The state governments are structured in roughly similar fashion; Nebraska uniquely has a unicameral legislature.[264] The governor (chief executive) of each state is directly elected. Some state judges and cabinet officers are appointed by the governors of the respective states, while others are elected by popular vote.

The original text of the Constitution establishes the structure and responsibilities of the federal government and its relationship with the individual states. Article One protects the right to the "great writ" of habeas corpus. The Constitution has been amended 27 times;[265] the first ten amendments, which make up the Bill of Rights, and the Fourteenth Amendment form the central basis of Americans' individual rights. All laws and governmental procedures are subject to judicial review and any law ruled by the courts to be in violation of the Constitution is voided. The principle of judicial review, not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, was established by the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803)[266] in a decision handed down by Chief Justice John Marshall.[267]

Political divisions[edit]

The United States is a federal union of 50 states. The original 13 states were the successors of the 13 colonies that rebelled against British rule. Early in the country's history, three new states were organized on territory separated from the claims of the existing states: Kentucky from Virginia; Tennessee from North Carolina; and Maine from Massachusetts. Most of the other states have been carved from territories obtained through war or purchase by the U.S. government. One set of exceptions includes Vermont, Texas, and Hawaii: each was a well-established independent republic before joining the union. During the American Civil War, West Virginia broke away from Virginia. The most recent state—Hawaii—achieved statehood on August 21, 1959.[268] The states do not have the right to unilaterally secede from the union.[269]

The states compose the vast bulk of the U.S. land mass. The District of Columbia is a federal district which contains the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. The United States also possesses five major overseas territories: Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands in the Caribbean; and American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.[270] Those born in the major territories are birthright U.S. citizens except Samoans. Samoans born in American Samoa are born U.S. nationals, and may become naturalized citizens.[271] American citizens residing in the territories have fundamental constitutional protections and elective self-government, with a territorial Member of Congress, but they do not vote for president as states. Territories have personal and business tax regimes different from that of states.[272]

The United States also observes tribal sovereignty of the Native Nations. Though reservations are within state borders, the reservation is a sovereign entity. While the United States recognizes this sovereignty, other countries may not.[273]

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming Delaware Maryland New Hampshire New Jersey Massachusetts Connecticut District of Columbia West Virginia Vermont Rhode IslandMap of USA with state names 2.svg
About this image

Parties and elections[edit]

(From left to right) House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House in 2011

The United States has operated under a two-party system for most of its history.[274] For elective offices at most levels, state-administered primary elections choose the major party nominees for subsequent general elections. Since the general election of 1856, the major parties have been the Democratic Party, founded in 1824, and the Republican Party, founded in 1854. Since the Civil War, only one third-party presidential candidate—former president Theodore Roosevelt, running as a Progressive in 1912—has won as much as 20% of the popular vote. The third-largest political party is the Libertarian Party. The President and Vice-president are elected through the Electoral College system.[275]

Within American political culture, the Republican Party is considered center-right or conservative and the Democratic Party is considered center-left or liberal.[276] The states of the Northeast and West Coast and some of the Great Lakes states, known as "blue states", are relatively liberal. The "red states" of the South and parts of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains are relatively conservative.

The winner of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, Democrat Barack Obama, is the 44th U.S. president.

In the 114th United States Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are controlled by the Republican Party. The Senate currently consists of 54 Republicans, and 44 Democrats with two independents who caucus with the Democrats; the House consists of 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats, with one vacancy.[277] In state governorships, there are 31 Republicans, 18 Democrats and one independent.[278] Among the DC mayor and the 5 territorial governors, there are 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats (one is also in the PPD), and 2 Independents.[279]

Since the founding of the United States until the 2000s, the country's governance has been primarily dominated by White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs). However, the situation has changed recently and of the top 17 positions (four national candidates of the two major party in the 2012 presidential election, four leaders in 112th United States Congress, and nine Supreme Court Justices) there is only one WASP.[280][281][282]

The United Nations Headquarters has been situated in Midtown Manhattan since 1952.

Foreign relations[edit]

The United States has an established structure of foreign relations. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and New York City is home to the United Nations Headquarters. It is a member of the G7,[283] G20, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Almost all countries have embassies in Washington, D.C., and many have consulates around the country. Likewise, nearly all nations host American diplomatic missions. However, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Bhutan, and the Republic of China (Taiwan) do not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States (although the U.S. still supplies Taiwan with military equipment).[284]

The United States has a "special relationship" with the United Kingdom[285] and strong ties with Canada,[286] Australia,[287] New Zealand,[288] the Philippines,[289] Japan,[290] South Korea,[291] Israel,[292] and several European Union countries, including France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. It works closely with fellow NATO members on military and security issues and with its neighbors through the Organization of American States and free trade agreements such as the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. In 2008, the United States spent a net $25.4 billion on official development assistance, the most in the world. As a share of America's large gross national income (GNI), however, the U.S. contribution of 0.18% ranked last among 22 donor states. By contrast, private overseas giving by Americans is relatively generous.[293]

The U.S. exercises full international defense authority and responsibility for three sovereign nations through Compact of Free Association with Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, all of which are Pacific island nations which were part of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands beginning after World War II, and gained independence in subsequent years.[294]

Government finance[edit]

Taxes are levied in the United States at the federal, state and local government level. These include taxes on income, payroll, property, sales, imports, estates and gifts, as well as various fees. In 2010 taxes collected by federal, state and municipal governments amounted to 24.8% of GDP.[295] During FY2012, the federal government collected approximately $2.45 trillion in tax revenue, up $147 billion or 6% versus FY2011 revenues of $2.30 trillion. Primary receipt categories included individual income taxes ($1,132B or 47%), Social Security/Social Insurance taxes ($845B or 35%), and corporate taxes ($242B or 10%).[296]

U.S. taxation is generally progressive, especially the federal income taxes, and is among the most progressive in the developed world,[297] but the incidence of corporate income tax has been a matter of considerable ongoing controversy for decades.[298][299] In 2009 the top 10% of earners, with 36% of the nation's income, paid 78.2% of the federal personal income tax burden, while the bottom 40% had a negative liability.[300] However, payroll taxes for Social Security are a flat regressive tax, with no tax charged on income above $113,700 and no tax at all paid on unearned income from things such as stocks and capital gains.[301][302] The historic reasoning for the regressive nature of the payroll tax is that entitlement programs have not been viewed as welfare transfers.[303][304] The top 10% paid 51.8% of total federal taxes in 2009, and the top 1%, with 13.4% of pre-tax national income, paid 22.3% of federal taxes.[300] In 2013 the Tax Policy Center projected total federal effective tax rates of 35.5% for the top 1%, 27.2% for the top quintile, 13.8% for the middle quintile, and −2.7% for the bottom quintile.[305][306] State and local taxes vary widely, but are generally less progressive than federal taxes as they rely heavily on broadly borne regressive sales and property taxes that yield less volatile revenue streams, though their consideration does not eliminate the progressive nature of overall taxation.[299][307]

During FY 2012, the federal government spent $3.54 trillion on a budget or cash basis, down $60 billion or 1.7% vs. FY 2011 spending of $3.60 trillion. Major categories of FY 2012 spending included: Medicare & Medicaid ($802B or 23% of spending), Social Security ($768B or 22%), Defense Department ($670B or 19%), non-defense discretionary ($615B or 17%), other mandatory ($461B or 13%) and interest ($223B or 6%).[296]

National debt[edit]

US federal debt held by the public as a percentage of GDP, from 1790 to 2013

The total national debt in the United States was $18.527 trillion (106% of the GDP), according to an estimate for 2014 by the International Monetary Fund.[308] In January 2015, U.S. federal government debt held by the public was approximately $13 trillion, or about 72% of U.S. GDP. Intra-governmental holdings stood at $5 trillion, giving a combined total debt of $18.080 trillion.[309][310] By 2012, total federal debt had surpassed 100% of U.S. GDP.[311] The U.S. has a credit rating of AA+ from Standard & Poor's, AAA from Fitch, and Aaa from Moody's.[312]

Historically, the U.S. public debt as a share of GDP increased during wars and recessions, and subsequently declined. For example, debt held by the public as a share of GDP peaked just after World War II (113% of GDP in 1945), but then fell over the following 30 years. In recent decades, large budget deficits and the resulting increases in debt have led to concern about the long-term sustainability of the federal government's fiscal policies.[313] However, these concerns are not universally shared.[314]


Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona (February 4, 2004)

The President holds the title of commander-in-chief of the nation's armed forces and appoints its leaders, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The United States Department of Defense administers the armed forces, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. The Coast Guard is run by the Department of Homeland Security in peacetime and by the Department of the Navy during times of war. In 2008, the armed forces had 1.4 million personnel on active duty. The Reserves and National Guard brought the total number of troops to 2.3 million. The Department of Defense also employed about 700,000 civilians, not including contractors.[315]

Military service is voluntary, though conscription may occur in wartime through the Selective Service System.[316] American forces can be rapidly deployed by the Air Force's large fleet of transport aircraft, the Navy's 10 active aircraft carriers, and Marine expeditionary units at sea with the Navy's Atlantic and Pacific fleets. The military operates 865 bases and facilities abroad,[317] and maintains deployments greater than 100 active duty personnel in 25 foreign countries.[318]

The military budget of the United States in 2011 was more than $700 billion, 41% of global military spending and equal to the next 14 largest national military expenditures combined. At 4.7% of GDP, the rate was the second-highest among the top 15 military spenders, after Saudi Arabia.[319] U.S. defense spending as a percentage of GDP ranked 23rd globally in 2012 according to the CIA.[320] Defense's share of U.S. spending has generally declined in recent decades, from Cold War peaks of 14.2% of GDP in 1953 and 69.5% of federal outlays in 1954 to 4.7% of GDP and 18.8% of federal outlays in 2011.[321]

The proposed base Department of Defense budget for 2012, $553 billion, was a 4.2% increase over 2011; an additional $118 billion was proposed for the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.[322] The last American troops serving in Iraq departed in December 2011;[323] 4,484 service members were killed during the Iraq War.[324] Approximately 90,000 U.S. troops were serving in Afghanistan in April 2012;[325] by November 8, 2013 2,285 had been killed during the War in Afghanistan.[326]

Law enforcement and crime[edit]

Law enforcement in the U.S. is maintained primarily by local police departments. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is the largest in the country.[327]

Law enforcement in the United States is primarily the responsibility of local police and sheriff's departments, with state police providing broader services. Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Marshals Service have specialized duties, including protecting civil rights, national security and enforcing U.S. federal courts' rulings and federal laws.[328] At the federal level and in almost every state, a legal system operates on a common law. State courts conduct most criminal trials; federal courts handle certain designated crimes as well as certain appeals from the state criminal courts. Plea bargaining in the United States is very common; the vast majority of criminal cases in the country are settled by plea bargain rather than jury trial.[329]

In 2012 there were 4.7 murders per 100,000 persons in the United States, a 54% decline from the modern peak of 10.2 in 1980.[330] Among developed nations, the United States has above-average levels of violent crime and particularly high levels of gun violence.[331] A cross-sectional analysis of the World Health Organization Mortality Database from 2003 showed that United States "homicide rates were 6.9 times higher than rates in the other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that were 19.5 times higher."[332][dated info] Gun ownership rights continue to be the subject of contentious political debate. The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports estimates that there were 3,246 violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents in 2012, for a total of over 9 million total crimes.[333]

Capital punishment is sanctioned in the United States for certain federal and military crimes, and used in 32 states.[334] No executions took place from 1967 to 1977, owing in part to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down arbitrary imposition of the death penalty. In 1976, that Court ruled that, under appropriate circumstances, capital punishment may constitutionally be imposed. Since the decision there have been more than 1,300 executions, a majority of these taking place in three states: Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma.[335] Meanwhile, several states have either abolished or struck down death penalty laws. In 2010, the country had the fifth highest number of executions in the world, following China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen.[336]

The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate and total prison population in the world.[337] At the start of 2008, more than 2.3 million people were incarcerated, more than one in every 100 adults.[338] At year end 2012, the combined U.S. adult correctional systems supervised about 6,937,600 offenders. About 1 in every 35 adult residents in the United States was under some form of correctional supervision at yearend 2012, the lowest rate observed since 1997.[339] The prison population has quadrupled since 1980.[340] However, the imprisonment rate for all prisoners sentenced to more than a year in state or federal facilities is 478 per 100,000 in 2013[341] and the rate for pre-trial/remand prisoners is 153 per 100,000 residents in 2012.[342] African-American males are jailed at about six times the rate of white males and three times the rate of Hispanic males.[343] The country's high rate of incarceration is largely due to changes in sentencing guidelines and drug policies.[344] According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the majority of inmates held in federal prisons are convicted of drug offenses.[345] The privatization of prisons has drawn criticism from human rights groups, citing concerns over incarceration of citizens for profit, and is a subject of contentious public debate.[346] In 2008, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate,[347] and Maine the lowest.[348] In 2012, Louisiana had the highest rate of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in the U.S., and New Hampshire the lowest.[349]


Economic indicators
Nominal GDP $17.555 trillion (Q3 2014) [350]
Real GDP growth 5% (Q3 2014, annualized)
2.2% (2013) [351]
CPI inflation 2.1% (May 2014) [352]
Employment-to-population ratio 58.9% (May 2014) [353]
Unemployment 5.5% (February 2015) [354]
Labor force participation rate 62.8% (October 2014) [355]
Total public debt $17.5 trillion (Q2 2014) [356]
Household net worth $81.8 trillion (Q1 2014) [357]
United States export treemap (2011): The U.S. is the world's second-largest exporter.

The United States has a capitalist mixed economy which is fueled by abundant natural resources and high productivity.[358] According to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. GDP of $16.8 trillion constitutes 24% of the gross world product at market exchange rates and over 19% of the gross world product at purchasing power parity (PPP).[31] Its national GDP was about 5% larger at PPP in 2014 than the European Union's, whose population is around 62% higher.[359] However, the US's nominal GDP is estimated to be $17.528 trillion as of 2014, which is about 5% smaller than that of the European Union.[360] From 1983 to 2008, U.S. real compounded annual GDP growth was 3.3%, compared to a 2.3% weighted average for the rest of the G7.[361] The country ranks ninth in the world in nominal GDP per capita and sixth in GDP per capita at PPP.[31] The U.S. dollar is the world's primary reserve currency.[362]

The United States is the largest importer of goods and second largest exporter, though exports per capita are relatively low. In 2010, the total U.S. trade deficit was $635 billion.[363] Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and Germany are its top trading partners.[364] In 2010, oil was the largest import commodity, while transportation equipment was the country's largest export.[363] China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. public debt.[365] The largest holder of the U.S. debt are American entities, including federal government accounts and the Federal Reserve, who hold the majority of the debt.[366][367][368][369]

In 2009, the private sector was estimated to constitute 86.4% of the economy, with federal government activity accounting for 4.3% and state and local government activity (including federal transfers) the remaining 9.3%.[370] While its economy has reached a postindustrial level of development and its service sector constitutes 67.8% of GDP, the United States remains an industrial power.[371] The leading business field by gross business receipts is wholesale and retail trade; by net income it is manufacturing.[372] In the franchising business model, McDonald's and Subway are the two most recognized brands in the world. Coca-Cola is the most recognized soft drink company in the world.[373]

Chemical products are the leading manufacturing field.[374] The United States is the largest producer of oil in the world, as well as its second largest importer.[375] It is the world's number one producer of electrical and nuclear energy, as well as liquid natural gas, sulfur, phosphates, and salt. The National Mining Association provides data pertaining to coal and minerals that include beryllium, copper, lead, magnesium, zinc, titanium and others.[376][377]

Agriculture accounts for just under 1% of GDP,[371] the United States is the world's top producer of corn[378] and soybeans.[379] The National Agricultural Statistics Service maintains agricultural statistics for products that include peanuts, oats, rye, wheat, rice, cotton, corn, barley, hay, sunflowers, and oilseeds. In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides livestock statistics regarding beef, poultry, pork, and dairy products. The country is the primary developer and grower of genetically modified food, representing half of the world's biotech crops.[380]

Consumer spending comprises 71% of the U.S. economy in 2013.[381] In August 2010, the American labor force consisted of 154.1 million people. With 21.2 million people, government is the leading field of employment. The largest private employment sector is health care and social assistance, with 16.4 million people. About 12% of workers are unionized, compared to 30% in Western Europe.[382] The World Bank ranks the United States first in the ease of hiring and firing workers.[383] The United States is ranked among the top three in the Global Competitiveness Report as well. The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation[384] and is one of just a few countries in the world without paid family leave as a legal right, with the others being Papua New Guinea, Suriname and Liberia.[385] However, 74% of full-time American workers get paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although only 24% of part-time workers get the same benefits.[386] While federal law currently does not require sick leave, it's a common benefit for government workers and full-time employees at corporations.[386] In 2009, the United States had the third highest workforce productivity per person in the world, behind Luxembourg and Norway. It was fourth in productivity per hour, behind those two countries and the Netherlands.[387]

The 2008-2012 global recession had a significant impact on the United States, with output still below potential according to the Congressional Budget Office.[388] It brought high unemployment (which has been decreasing but remains above pre-recession levels), along with low consumer confidence, the continuing decline in home values and increase in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, an escalating federal debt crisis, inflation, and rising petroleum and food prices. There remains a record proportion of long-term unemployed, continued decreasing household income, and tax and federal budget increases.[389][390][391] A 2011 poll found that more than half of all Americans think the U.S. is still in recession or even depression, despite official data that shows a historically modest recovery.[392] In 2013 the Census Bureau defined poverty rate decreased to roughly 14.5% of the population.[393]

Income, poverty and wealth[edit]

Productivity and real median family income growth 1947–2009

Americans have the highest average household and employee income among OECD nations, and in 2007 had the second highest median household income.[394][395] According to the Census Bureau real median household income was $50,502 in 2011, down from $51,144 in 2010.[396] The Global Food Security Index ranked the U.S. number one for food affordability and overall food security in March 2013.[397] Americans on average have over twice as much living space per dwelling and per person as European Union residents, and more than every EU nation.[398] For 2013 the United Nations Development Programme ranked the United States 5th among 187 countries in its Human Development Index and 28th in its inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI).[399]

There has been a widening gap between productivity and median incomes since the 1970s.[400] While inflation-adjusted ("real") household income had been increasing almost every year from 1947 to 1999, it has since been flat and even decreased recently.[401] The rise in the share of total annual income received by the top 1 percent, which has more than doubled from 9 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2011, has had a significant impact on income inequality,[402] leaving the United States with one of the widest income distributions among OECD nations.[403][404][405] The post-recession income gains have been very uneven, with the top 1 percent capturing 95 percent of the income gains from 2009 to 2012.[406]

Wealth, like income and taxes, is highly concentrated; the richest 10% of the adult population possess 72% of the country's household wealth, while the bottom half claim only 2%.[407] Between June 2007 and November 2008 the global recession led to falling asset prices around the world. Assets owned by Americans lost about a quarter of their value.[408][disputed ] Since peaking in the second quarter of 2007, household wealth is down $14 trillion.[409][disputed ] At the end of 2008, household debt amounted to $13.8 trillion.[410]

There were about 643,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons in the U.S. in January 2009, with almost two-thirds staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. In 2011 16.7 million children lived in food-insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels, though only 1.1% of U.S. children, or 845,000, saw reduced food intake or disrupted eating patterns at some point during the year, and most cases were not chronic.[411] According to a 2014 report by the Census Bureau, one in five young adults lives in poverty today, up from one in seven in 1980.[412]


The University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, is one of the many public universities in the United States.

American public education is operated by state and local governments, regulated by the United States Department of Education through restrictions on federal grants. In most states, children are required to attend school from the age of six or seven (generally, kindergarten or first grade) until they turn 18 (generally bringing them through twelfth grade, the end of high school); some states allow students to leave school at 16 or 17.[413] About 12% of children are enrolled in parochial or nonsectarian private schools. Just over 2% of children are homeschooled.[414] The U.S. spends more on education per student than any nation in the world, spending more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student.[415] Some 80% of U.S. college students attend public universities.[416]

The United States has many competitive private and public institutions of higher education. According to prominent international rankings, 13 or 15 American colleges and universities are ranked among the top 20 in the world.[417][418] There are also local community colleges with generally more open admission policies, shorter academic programs, and lower tuition. Of Americans 25 and older, 84.6% graduated from high school, 52.6% attended some college, 27.2% earned a bachelor's degree, and 9.6% earned graduate degrees.[419] The basic literacy rate is approximately 99%.[6][420] The United Nations assigns the United States an Education Index of 0.97, tying it for 12th in the world.[421]

As for public expenditures on higher education, the U.S. trails some other OECD nations but spends more per student than the OECD average, and more than all nations in combined public and private spending.[415][422] As of 2012, student loan debt exceeded one trillion dollars, more than Americans owe on credit cards.[423]


See also: Alaska Natives § Cultures, Native American cultures in the United States, Culture of the Native Hawaiians, Social class in the United States, Public holidays in the United States and Tourism in the United States

The United States is home to many cultures and a wide variety of ethnic groups, traditions, and values.[21][424] Aside from the Native American, Native Hawaiian and Native Alaskan populations, nearly all Americans or their ancestors settled or immigrated within the past five centuries.[425] Mainstream American culture is a Western culture largely derived from the traditions of European immigrants with influences from many other sources, such as traditions brought by slaves from Africa.[21][426] More recent immigration from Asia and especially Latin America has added to a cultural mix that has been described as both a homogenizing melting pot, and a heterogeneous salad bowl in which immigrants and their descendants retain distinctive cultural characteristics.[21]

Core American culture was established by Protestant British colonists and shaped by the frontier settlement process, with the traits derived passed down to descendants and transmitted to immigrants through assimilation. Americans have traditionally been characterized by a strong work ethic, competitiveness, and individualism, as well as a unifying belief in an "American creed" emphasizing liberty, equality, private property, democracy, rule of law, and a preference for limited government.[427] Americans are extremely charitable by global standards. According to a 2006 British study, Americans gave 1.67% of GDP to charity, more than any other nation studied, more than twice the second place British figure of 0.73%, and around twelve times the French figure of 0.14%.[428][429]

The American Dream, or the perception that Americans enjoy high social mobility, plays a key role in attracting immigrants.[430] Whether this perception is realistic has been a topic of debate.[431][432][433][434][361][435] While mainstream culture holds that the United States is a classless society,[436] scholars identify significant differences between the country's social classes, affecting socialization, language, and values.[437] Americans' self-images, social viewpoints, and cultural expectations are associated with their occupations to an unusually close degree.[438] While Americans tend greatly to value socioeconomic achievement, being ordinary or average is generally seen as a positive attribute.[439]


Apple pie is a food commonly associated with American cuisine.

Mainstream American cuisine is similar to that in other Western countries. Wheat is the primary cereal grain with about three-quarters of grain products made of wheat flour[440] and many dishes use indigenous ingredients, such as turkey, venison, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and maple syrup which were consumed by Native Americans and early European settlers.[441] These home grown foods are part of a shared national menu on one of America's most popular holidays; Thanksgiving, when some Americans make traditional foods to celebrate the occasion.[442]

Roasted turkey is a traditional menu item of an American Thanksgiving dinner.[443]

Characteristic dishes such as apple pie, fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs derive from the recipes of various immigrants. French fries, Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos, and pasta dishes freely adapted from Italian sources are widely consumed.[444] Americans generally prefer coffee to tea.[445] Marketing by U.S. industries is largely responsible for making orange juice and milk ubiquitous breakfast beverages.[446][447]

American eating habits owe a great deal to that of their British culinary roots with some variations. Even though American lands could grow newer vegetables England could not, most colonist would not eat these new foods until accepted by Europeans.[448] Over time American foods changed to a point that food critic, John L. Hess stated in 1972: "Our founding fathers were as far superior to our present political leaders in the quality of their food as they were in the quality of their prose and intelligence".[449]

The American fast food industry, the world's largest,[450] pioneered the drive-through format in the 1940s.[451] Fast food consumption has sparked health concerns. During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans' caloric intake rose 24%;[444] frequent dining at fast food outlets is associated with what public health officials call the American "obesity epidemic".[452] Highly sweetened soft drinks are widely popular, and sugared beverages account for nine percent of American caloric intake.[453]

Literature, philosophy, and the arts[edit]

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, American art and literature took most of its cues from Europe. Writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry David Thoreau established a distinctive American literary voice by the middle of the 19th century. Mark Twain and poet Walt Whitman were major figures in the century's second half; Emily Dickinson, virtually unknown during her lifetime, is now recognized as an essential American poet.[454] A work seen as capturing fundamental aspects of the national experience and character—such as Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851), Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925)—may be dubbed the "Great American Novel".[455]

Mark Twain, American author and humorist

Eleven U.S. citizens have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, most recently Toni Morrison in 1993. William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway are often named among the most influential writers of the 20th century.[456] Popular literary genres such as the Western and hardboiled crime fiction developed in the United States. The Beat Generation writers opened up new literary approaches, as have postmodernist authors such as John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo.[457]

The transcendentalists, led by Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, established the first major American philosophical movement. After the Civil War, Charles Sanders Peirce and then William James and John Dewey were leaders in the development of pragmatism. In the 20th century, the work of W. V. O. Quine and Richard Rorty, and later Noam Chomsky, brought analytic philosophy to the fore of American philosophical academia. John Rawls and Robert Nozick led a revival of political philosophy. Cornel West and Judith Butler have led a continental tradition in American philosophical academia. Globally influential Chicago school economists like Milton Friedman, James M. Buchanan, and Thomas Sowell have transcended discipline to impact various fields in social and political philosophy.[458][459]

In the visual arts, the Hudson River School was a mid-19th-century movement in the tradition of European naturalism. The realist paintings of Thomas Eakins are now widely celebrated. The 1913 Armory Show in New York City, an exhibition of European modernist art, shocked the public and transformed the U.S. art scene.[460] Georgia O'Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and others experimented with new, individualistic styles. Major artistic movements such as the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and the pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein developed largely in the United States. The tide of modernism and then postmodernism has brought fame to American architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, and Frank Gehry.[461]

Times Square in New York City, the hub of the Broadway theater district[462]

One of the first major promoters of American theater was impresario P. T. Barnum, who began operating a lower Manhattan entertainment complex in 1841. The team of Harrigan and Hart produced a series of popular musical comedies in New York starting in the late 1870s. In the 20th century, the modern musical form emerged on Broadway; the songs of musical theater composers such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Stephen Sondheim have become pop standards. Playwright Eugene O'Neill won the Nobel literature prize in 1936; other acclaimed U.S. dramatists include multiple Pulitzer Prize winners Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and August Wilson.[463]

Though little known at the time, Charles Ives's work of the 1910s established him as the first major U.S. composer in the classical tradition, while experimentalists such as Henry Cowell and John Cage created a distinctive American approach to classical composition. Aaron Copland and George Gershwin developed a new synthesis of popular and classical music. Choreographers Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham helped create modern dance, while George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins were leaders in 20th-century ballet. Americans have long been important in the modern artistic medium of photography, with major photographers including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Ansel Adams.[464]


The rhythmic and lyrical styles of African-American music have deeply influenced American music at large, distinguishing it from European traditions. Elements from folk idioms such as the blues and what is now known as old-time music were adopted and transformed into popular genres with global audiences. Jazz was developed by innovators such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington early in the 20th century. Country music developed in the 1920s, and rhythm and blues in the 1940s.[465]

Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry were among the mid-1950s pioneers of rock and roll. In the 1960s, Bob Dylan emerged from the folk revival to become one of America's most celebrated songwriters and James Brown led the development of funk. More recent American creations include hip hop and house music. American pop stars such as Presley, Michael Jackson, and Madonna have become global celebrities,[465] as have contemporary musical artists such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Beyoncé.[citation needed]


Hollywood, a northern district of Los Angeles, California, is one of the leaders in motion picture production.[466] The world's first commercial motion picture exhibition was given in New York City in 1894, using Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope.[467] The next year saw the first commercial screening of a projected film, also in New York, and the United States was in the forefront of sound film's development in the following decades. Since the early 20th century, the U.S. film industry has largely been based in and around Hollywood, although in the 21st century an increasing number of films are not made there, and film companies have been subject to the forces of globalization.[468]

Marilyn Monroe, an icon of Hollywood

Director D. W. Griffith, American's top filmmaker during the silent film period, was central to the development of film grammar, and producer/entrepreneur Walt Disney was a leader in both animated film and movie merchandising.[469] Directors such as John Ford redefined the image of the American Old West and history, and, like others such as John Huston, broadened the possibilities of cinema with location shooting, with great influence on subsequent directors. The industry enjoyed its golden years, in what is commonly referred to as the "Golden Age of Hollywood", from the early sound period until the early 1960s, with screen actors such as John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe becoming iconic figures. In the 1970s, film directors such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Altman were a vital component in what became known as "New Hollywood" or the "Hollywood Renaissance",[470] grittier films influenced by French and Italian realist pictures of the post-war period.[471] Since, directors such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron have gained renown for their blockbuster films, often characterized by high production costs, and in return, high earnings at the box office, with Cameron's Avatar (2009) earning more than $2 billion.[472] Notable films topping the American Film Institute's AFI 100 list include Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941), which is frequently cited as the greatest film of all time,[473][474]Casablanca (1942), The Godfather (1972), Gone with the Wind (1939), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Graduate (1967), On the Waterfront (1954), Schindler's List (1993), Singin' in the Rain (1952), It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Sunset Boulevard (1950).[475] The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, have been held annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1929,[476] and the Golden Globe Awards have been held annually since January 1944.[477]


Swimmer Michael Phelps and then-President George W. Bush August 10, 2008 at the National Aquatic Center in Beijing. Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.[478][479]

While most major U.S. sports have evolved out of European practices, basketball, volleyball, skateboarding, and snowboarding are American inventions, some of which have become popular in other countries. Lacrosse and surfing arose from Native American and Native Hawaiian activities that predate Western contact.[480] The Iroquois field their own separate national team, the Iroquois Nationals, in recognition of the confederacy's creation of lacrosse. Eight Olympic Games have taken place in the United States. The United States has won 2,400 medals at the Summer Olympic Games, more than any other country, and 281 in the Winter Olympic Games, the second most behind Norway.[481]

The market for professional sports in the United States is roughly $69 billion, roughly 50% larger than that of all of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa combined.[482] Baseball has been regarded as the national sport since the late 19th century, with Major League Baseball (MLB) being the top league, while American football is now by several measures the most popular spectator sport,[483] with the National Football League (NFL) having the highest average attendance of any sports league in the world and a Super Bowl watched by millions globally. Basketball and ice hockey are the country's next two leading professional team sports, with the top leagues being the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL). These four major sports, when played professionally, each occupy a season at different, but overlapping, times of the year. College football and basketball attract large audiences.[484] Boxing and horse racing were once the most watched individual sports,[485] but they have been eclipsed by golf and auto racing, particularly NASCAR.[486] In the 21st century, televised mixed martial arts has also gained a strong following of regular viewers.[487][488] While soccer is less popular in the United States than in many other nations, the country hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the men's national soccer team has been to the past six World Cups and the women are first in the women's world rankings.



The Interstate Highway System, which extends 46,876 miles (75,440 km)[489]

Personal transportation is dominated by automobiles, which operate on a network of 4 million miles of public roads,[490] including one of the world's longest highway systems.[491] The world's second largest automobile market,[492] the United States has the highest rate of per-capita vehicle ownership in the world, with 765 vehicles per 1,000 Americans.[493] About 40% of personal vehicles are vans, SUVs, or light trucks.[494] The average American adult (accounting for all drivers and non-drivers) spends 55 minutes driving every day, traveling 29 miles (47 km).[495]

Mass transit accounts for 9% of total U.S. work trips.[496][497] While transport of goods by rail is extensive, relatively few people use rail to travel,[498] though ridership on Amtrak, the national intercity passenger rail system, grew by almost 37% between 2000 and 2010.[499] Also, light rail development has increased in recent years.[500] Bicycle usage for work commutes is minimal.[501]

The civil airline industry is entirely privately owned and has been largely deregulated since 1978, while most major airports are publicly owned.[502] The three largest airlines in the world by passengers carried are U.S.-based; American Airlines is number one after its 2013 acquisition by US Airways.[503] Of the world's 30 busiest passenger airports, 12 are in the United States, including the busiest, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.[504]


The Hoover Dam when completed in 1936 was both the world's largest electric-power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure.

The United States energy market is about 29,000 terawatt hours per year.[505] Energy consumption per capita is 7.8 tons of oil equivalent per year, the 10th highest rate in the world. In 2005, 40% of this energy came from petroleum, 23% from coal, and 22% from natural gas. The remainder was supplied by nuclear power and renewable energy sources.[506] The United States is the world's largest consumer of petroleum.[507]

For decades, nuclear power has played a limited role relative to many other developed countries, in part because of public perception in the wake of a 1979 accident. In 2007, several applications for new nuclear plants were filed.[508] The United States has 27% of global coal reserves.[509] It is the world's largest producer of natural gas and crude oil.[510]

Science and technology[edit]

Astronaut James Irwin walking on the Moon next to Apollo 15's landing module and lunar rover in 1971. The effort to reach the Moon was triggered by the Space Race.

The United States has been a leader in scientific research and technological innovation since the late 19th century. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone. Thomas Edison's research laboratory, one of the first of its kind, developed the phonograph, the first long-lasting light bulb, and the first viable movie camera.[511] The latter lead to emergence of the worldwide entertainment industry. In the early 20th century, the automobile companies of Ransom E. Olds and Henry Ford popularized the assembly line. The Wright brothers, in 1903, made the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight.[512]

The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led many European scientists, including Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and John von Neumann, to immigrate to the United States.[513] During World War II, the Manhattan Project developed nuclear weapons, ushering in the Atomic Age, while the Space Race produced rapid advances in rocketry, materials science, and aeronautics.[514][515]

The invention of the transistor in the 1950s, a key active component in practically all modern electronics, lead to many technological developments and a significant expansion of the U.S. technology industry.[516][517][518] This in turn lead to the establishment of many new technology companies and regions around the county such as Silicon Valley in California. Advancements by American microprocessor companies such as Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), and Intel along with both computer software and hardware companies that include Adobe Systems, Apple Computer, IBM, GNU-Linux, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems created and popularized the personal computer. The ARPANET was developed in the 1960s to meet Defense Department requirements, and became the first of a series of networks which evolved into the Internet.[519]

These advancements then lead to greater personalization of technology for individual use.[520] As of April 2010, 77% of American households owned at least one computer, and 68% had broadband Internet service.[521] 85% of Americans also own a mobile phone as of 2011.[522]

In the 21st century, 64% of research and development funding comes from the private sector.[523] The United States leads the world in scientific research papers and impact factor.[524]


Health spending per capita, in US$ PPP-adjusted, compared amongst various first world nations.

The United States has a life expectancy of 79.8 years at birth, up from 75.2 years in 1990.[525][526][527] Increasing obesity in the United States and health improvements elsewhere have contributed to lowering the country's rank in life expectancy from 1987, when it was 11th in the world.[528] Obesity rates in the United States are among the highest in the world.[529] Approximately one-third of the adult population is obese and an additional third is overweight;[530] the obesity rate, the highest in the industrialized world, has more than doubled in the last quarter-century.[531] Obesity-related type 2 diabetes is considered epidemic by health care professionals.[532] The infant mortality rate of 6.17 per thousand places the United States 169th highest out of 224 countries.[533]

In 2010, coronary artery disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and traffic accidents caused the most years of life lost in the U.S. Low back pain, depression, musculoskeletal disorders, neck pain, and anxiety caused the most years lost to disability. The most deleterious risk factors were poor diet, tobacco smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, physical inactivity, and alcohol use. Alzheimer's disease, drug abuse, kidney disease and cancer, and falls caused the most additional years of life lost over their age-adjusted 1990 per-capita rates.[527] U.S. teenage pregnancy and abortion rates are substantially higher than in other Western nations, especially among blacks and Hispanics.[534] U.S. underage drinking among teenagers is among the lowest in industrialized nations.[535]

The U.S. is a global leader in medical innovation. America solely developed or contributed significantly to 9 of the top 10 most important medical innovations since 1975 as ranked by a 2001 poll of physicians, while the EU and Switzerland together contributed to five.[536] Since 1966, more Americans have received the Nobel Prize in Medicine than the rest of the world combined. From 1989 to 2002, four times more money was invested in private biotechnology companies in America than in Europe.[537] The U.S. health-care system far outspends any other nation, measured in both per capita spending and percentage of GDP.[538] Health-care coverage in the United States is a combination of public and private efforts and is not universal. In 2014, 13.4% of the population did not carry health insurance.[539] The subject of uninsured and underinsured Americans is a major political issue.[540][541] In 2006, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate universal health insurance.[542] Federal legislation passed in early 2010 would ostensibly create a near-universal health insurance system around the country by 2014, though the bill and its ultimate impact are issues of controversy.[543][544]


Corporate headquarters of the American Broadcasting Company in New York City

The four major broadcasters in the U.S. are the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Fox. Americans are the heaviest television viewers in the world,[545] and the average viewing time continues to rise, reaching five hours a day in 2006.[546] The four major broadcast television networks are all commercial entities. Americans listen to radio programming, also largely commercial, on average just over two-and-a-half hours a day.[547]

In 1998, the number of U.S. commercial radio stations had grown to 4,793 AM stations and 5,662 FM stations. In addition, there are 1,460 public radio stations. Most of these stations are run by universities and public authorities for educational purposes and are financed by public or private funds, subscriptions and corporate underwriting. Much public-radio broadcasting is supplied by NPR (formerly National Public Radio). NPR was incorporated in February 1970 under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; its television counterpart, PBS, was also created by the same legislation. (NPR and PBS are operated separately from each other.) As of September 30, 2014 there are 15,433 licensed full-power radio stations in the US according to the FCC.[548]

Well-known newspapers are The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. Although the cost of publishing has increased over the years, the price of newspapers has generally remained low, forcing newspapers to rely more on advertising revenue and on articles provided by a major wire service, such as the Associated Press or Reuters, for their national and world coverage. With very few exceptions, all the newspapers in the U.S. are privately owned, either by large chains such as Gannett or McClatchy, which own dozens or even hundreds of newspapers; by small chains that own a handful of papers; or in a situation that is increasingly rare, by individuals or families. Major cities often have "alternative weeklies" to complement the mainstream daily paper(s), for example, New York City's The Village Voice or Los Angeles' LA Weekly, to name two of the best-known. Major cities may also support a local business journal, trade papers relating to local industries, and papers for local ethnic and social groups. Early versions of the American newspaper comic strip and the American comic book began appearing in the 19th century. In 1938, Superman, the quintessential comic book superhero of DC Comics, developed into an American icon.[549] Aside from web portals and search engines, the most popular websites are Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon, eBay, and Twitter.[550]

In Spanish, the second most widely spoken mother tongue behind English, more than 800 publications are published.[551][552]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beginning between 1945, 1954, 1962 (depending on different sources) and ending in the mid-1970s. Several start dates of the war are given by different sources: 1945,[128] 1954,[129] 1959,[130] and 1962;[131] the end date is also debated. Major U.S. involvement stopped in 1973,[132] yet most recognize the end of the Second Indochina War as when the Republic of Vietnam was toppled in 1975.[133]


  1. ^ 36 U.S.C. § 302 National motto
  2. ^ Simonson, 2010
  3. ^ Dept. of Treasury, 2011
  4. ^ "U.S. Code: Title 36, 304". United States Code. United States: Cornell Law School. August 12, 1998. Retrieved February 15, 2015. The composition by John Philip Sousa entitled 'The Stars and Stripes Forever' is the national march. 
  5. ^ a b "U.S. and World Population Clock". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "United States". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. June 20, 2014. Retrieved January 20, 2015.  (area given in square kilometers)
  7. ^ "GDP (current US$)". World Bank Open Data. The World Bank. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  8. ^ "GDP per capita (current US$)". World Bank Open Data. The World Bank. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  9. ^ "OECD Income Distribution Database: Gini, poverty, income, Methods and Concepts". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 
  10. ^ "Global inequality: How the U.S. compares". Pew Research. 
  11. ^ "Income Distribution and Poverty : by country - INEQUALITY". OECD. 
  12. ^ "2014 Human Development Report Summary". United Nations Development Programme. 2014. pp. 21–25. Retrieved July 27, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Feder, Jody (January 25, 2007). "English as the Official Language of the United States: Legal Background and Analysis of Legislation in the 110th Congress". (Congressional Research Service). Retrieved June 19, 2007. 
  14. ^ New Mexico Code 1-16-7 (1981).
  15. ^ New Mexico Code 14-11-13 (2011).
  16. ^ Cobarrubias, Juan; Fishman, Joshua A. (1983). Progress in Language Planning: International Perspectives. Walter de Gruyter. p. 195. ISBN 90-279-3358-8. Retrieved December 27, 2011. 
  17. ^ García, Ofelia (2011). Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. John Wiley & Sons. p. 167. ISBN 1-4443-5978-9. Retrieved December 27, 2011. 
  18. ^ The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, Second Edition: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind. St. Martin's Press. 2007. p. 670. ISBN 978-0-312-37659-8. 
  19. ^ Onuf, Peter S. (1983). The Origins of the Federal Republic: Jurisdictional Controversies in the United States, 1775–1787. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-1167-2. 
  20. ^ a b "State and other areas", U.S. Census Bureau, MAF/TIGER database as of August 2010, excluding the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands. viewed October 22, 2014.
  21. ^ a b c d Adams, J.Q.; Strother-Adams, Pearlie (2001). Dealing with Diversity. Chicago: Kendall/Hunt. ISBN 0-7872-8145-X.
  22. ^ "Wildlife Library". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved December 23, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Maugh II, Thomas H. (July 12, 2012). "Who was first? New info on North America's earliest residents". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles County, California: Los Angeles Times). Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  24. ^ Greene, Jack P.; Pole, J.R., eds. (2008). A Companion to the American Revolution. pp. 352–361.
    Bender, Thomas (2006). A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History. New York: Hill & Wang. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-8090-7235-4. 
    "Overview of the Early National Period". Digitial History. University of Houston. 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  25. ^ a b Carlisle, Rodney P.; Golson, J. Geoffrey (2007). Manifest Destiny and the Expansion of America. Turning Points in History Series. ABC-CLIO. p. 238. ISBN 978-1-85109-833-0. 
  26. ^ "The Civil War and emancipation 1861–1865". Africans in America. Boston, Massachusetts: WGBH Educational Foundation. 1999. Archived from the original on 12 October 1999. Retrieved October 12, 1999. 
  27. ^ Britannica Educational Publishing (2009). Wallenfeldt, Jeffrey H., ed. The American Civil War and Reconstruction: People, Politics, and Power. America at War. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-61530-045-7. 
  28. ^ White, Donald W. (1996). "1: The Frontiers". The American Century. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05721-0. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Work in the Late 19th Century". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  30. ^ Tony Judt; Denis Lacorne (June 4, 2005). With Us Or Against Us: Studies in Global Anti-Americanism. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-4039-8085-4. 
    Richard J. Samuels (December 21, 2005). Encyclopedia of United States National Security. SAGE Publications. p. 666. ISBN 978-1-4522-6535-3. 
    Paul R. Pillar (January 1, 2001). Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy. Brookings Institution Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-8157-0004-0. 
    Gabe T. Wang (January 1, 2006). China and the Taiwan Issue: Impending War at Taiwan Strait. University Press of America. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-7618-3434-2. 
    Understanding the "Victory Disease," From the Little Bighorn to Mogadishu and Beyond. DIANE Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-4289-1052-2. 
    Akis Kalaitzidis; Gregory W. Streich (2011). U.S. Foreign Policy: A Documentary and Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO. p. 313. ISBN 978-0-313-38375-5. 
  31. ^ a b c "World Economic Outlook Database: United States". International Monetary Fund. October 2014. Retrieved November 2, 2014. 
  32. ^ "U.S. Workers World's Most Productive". CBS News. February 11, 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Manufacturing, Jobs and the U.S. Economy". Alliance for American Manufacturing. 2013. 
  34. ^ "Trends in world military expenditure, 2013". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. April 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  35. ^ Field listing - GDP (PPP exchange rate), CIA World Factbook
  36. ^ Cohen, 2004: History and the Hyperpower
    BBC, April 2008: Country Profile: United States of America
    "Geographical trends of research output". Research Trends. Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
    "The top 20 countries for scientific output". Open Access Week. Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
    "Granted patents". European Patent Office. Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Cartographer Put 'America' on the Map 500 years Ago". USA Today (Washington, D.C.). Associated Press. April 24, 2007. Retrieved November 30, 2008. 
  38. ^ DeLear, Byron (July 4, 2013) Who coined 'United States of America'? Mystery might have intriguing answer. "Historians have long tried to pinpoint exactly when the name 'United States of America' was first used and by whom. A new find suggests the man might have been George Washington himself." Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA).
  39. ^ "To the inhabitants of Virginia," by A PLANTER. Dixon and Hunter's Virginia Gazette #1287 – April 6, 1776, Williamsburg, Virginia. Letter is also included in Peter Force's American Archives Vol. 5
  40. ^ Carter, Rusty (August 18, 2012). "You read it here first". The Virginia Gazette. Archived from the original on August 22, 2012. He did a search of the archives and found the letter on the front page of the April 6, 1776, edition, published by Hunter & Dixon. 
  41. ^ DeLear, Byron (August 16, 2012). "Who coined the name 'United States of America'? Mystery gets new twist." Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA).
  42. ^ "Jefferson's "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence". Princeton University. 2004. Archived from the original on August 5, 2004. 
  43. ^ "The Charters of Freedom". National Archives. Retrieved June 20, 2007. 
  44. ^ Mary Mostert (2005). The Threat of Anarchy Leads to the Constitution of the United States. CTR Publishing, Inc. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-9753851-4-2. 
  45. ^ Doug Brokenshire (Stanford University) (1996). Washington State Place Names. Caxton Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-87004-562-2. 
  46. ^ For example, the U.S. embassy in Spain calls itself the embassy of the "Estados Unidos", literally the words "states" and "united", and also uses the initials "EE.UU.", the doubled letters implying plural use in Spanish [1] Elsewhere on the site "Estados Unidos de América" is used [2]
  47. ^ Zimmer, Benjamin (November 24, 2005). "Life in These, Uh, This United States". University of Pennsylvania—Language Log. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 
  48. ^ G. H. Emerson, The Universalist Quarterly and General Review, Vol. 28 (Jan. 1891), p. 49, quoted in Zimmer paper above.
  49. ^ Wilson, Kenneth G. (1993). The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-231-06989-8.
  50. ^ "What is the earliest evidence of the peopling of North and South America?". Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History. June 2004. Archived from the original on November 28, 2007. Retrieved June 19, 2007. 
  51. ^ Kudeba, Nicolas (February 28, 2014). "Chapter 1 – The First Big Steppe – Aboriginal Canadian History". The History of Canada Podcast. Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. 
  52. ^ "The Cambridge encyclopedia of human paleopathology". Arthur C. Aufderheide, Conrado Rodríguez-Martín, Odin Langsjoen (1998). Cambridge University Press. p. 205. ISBN 0-521-55203-6
  53. ^ Bianchine, Russo, 1992 pp. 225–232
  54. ^ Thornton, 1987 p. 49
  55. ^ Kessel, 2005 pp. 142–143
  56. ^ Mercer Country Historical Society, 2005
  57. ^ Juergens, 2011, p. 69
  58. ^ Ripper, 2008 p. 6
  59. ^ Ripper, 2008 p. 5
  60. ^ Calloway, 1998, p. 55
  61. ^ Tayl